Flat earthism (FE) has reemerged with passionate momentum as of late – especially in Christian circles. No longer relegated to the dregs of society – FE has been reintroduced, and accepted, by a broad contingent of believers here in the 21st century. Many Bible believers are emphatically stating that the Bible is a “flat earth book”; and since they rightly believe the Bible is the Word of the Living God, they are unwilling to budge on the topic. While a cursory reading in English may reveal something akin to a fixed earth supported by pillars, a deeper study into the language variants and primitive Hebrew word roots reveal something much different. If indeed the Bible is true, and it in fact is NOT describing a flat, fixed earth, what happens with these adherents?
Christian flat earth proponent, and leader of the FE groundswell movement Rob Skiba has stated repeatedly and emphatically, “I believe in the earth as described in scripture”, alluding to his and others’ belief that the Old Testament describes a flat earth. Others, such as Bible scholar Doug Hamp (who did a wonderful linguistic study of the topic here), also attest to the truth of scripture, and believe that it is in fact NOT describing a flat earth whatsoever. Since Skiba is clearly aware that the Hebrew scriptures were originally written in Hebrew, and not English; would he be willing to accept that the truth lies in the Hebrew and not the English? Much of the English transliteration does seem to hint at more of a flattened, stationary earth – but as we will discover below, the Hebrew language was horribly betrayed in these renderings. The truth is not as clear cut and simple as Skiba would have us believe with the English translations he uses as his evidence.
First of all, we need to lay some groundwork. There are two distinct classes of FE believers. One class, consults the Bible in order to seek the truth; and in their limited understanding coupled with what they’ve been told, has arrived at a flat earth. This subset is however still primarily concerned with truth over flat earth. The second class is much more FE dogmatic. This group most likely originated from the first, but has become more brazen and militant in their FE activism. They’ve decided long ago that the Bible describes a flat earth, and are now dedicated to defending their position from those who threaten it – even if the threat is with new discoveries from the Bible itself. This FE menagerie is more loyal to flat earth than the truth. To the former class, this article may reveal groundbreaking information not yet considered or known. To the latter, it will be yet another enemy advance upon their sacred flat turf, that must be defended at all costs.
Scriptures in Question
Let’s examine scripture as if we are putting flat earth on trial, with the Bible serving as the key witness. If reasonable doubt exists, then ambiguity (at best) is the verdict. If evidence of a flat model fails, and evidence of a globe design exists, then a Bible-based globe model is a reasonable conclusion.
We want to give due credit and praise to the good folks over at the Blue Letter Bible (blueletterbible.org) for their incredible and exhaustive online repository of original text, lexicons, and translations that makes this exercise much easier. Please check them out, and join us in supporting this wonderful ministry.
While the number of “flat earth supporting” scriptures vary depending on who you ask, most are somewhat obvious. Let’s focus on these for now. For a counter argument vantage point, we’ll refer to Rob Skiba and his work, since he is probably arguably the most prominent teacher of flat earth dogma within the Christian community.
Skiba provides an exhaustive list of scripture in the link provided above, in English alone – which again – is entirely insufficient to deeply understand biblical meanings behind ancient Hebrew words translated into English. Because many use repetitive phrasing and word roots, we won’t deal with them all. What we will do, is examine our samples thoroughly, and in sections:
“Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.” – Job 9:6
It is assumed that what is being contended here is that the earth is fixed upon pillars. Even with a brief examination of the text as is and taken literally, the pillars mentioned cannot be fixed. If the earth is “shaken out of her place”, then it would be off of the pillars (her “place”), which wouldn’t be trembling with nothing attached to them. So the pillars must not be as we envision them – something akin to gigantic Greco-Roman columns supporting the earth above it. This passage only begins to make sense if the pillars in question are inside of the earth itself.
Other verses tell us that the earth cannot be moved:
“Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.” – 1 Chronicles 16:30
“The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.” – Psalm 93:1
Clearly, the Bible cannot testify against itself. So these verses cannot be describing a flat, stationary earth that doesn’t move. We know that the earth moves – and rather violently at times. Earthquakes happen all over the world, where literally the “foundations” of the earth itself are trembling. But we also know that the earth has a “place” in which Job says that only God can move her out of. The earth’s proper place is within her orbit, where she sits “hanging on nothing” (Job 26:7). How can the earth both hang on nothing and be supported by external pillars?
As we examine the term translated in English as “pillars”, we discover something interesting. The Hebrew עַמּוּד ʻammûwd (Strong’s H5982) is also used to describe a pillar of smoke or clouds, and is derived from the root עָמַד ʻâmad (H5975) which is “to stand”. It’s interesting that Job used the word that also means something without structure and firmness, H5982; versus the more fixed and standing firm H5975.
Observe Exodus 13:21:
“And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar H5982 of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar H5982 of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night”
Everywhere the “pillar” of cloud or fire is referenced, the same word that Job used to describe the pillars of the earth is used. A pillar of cloud or fire has no structural integrity and is very nebulous.
If flat earthers insist that Job is describing fixed structural pillars that support the earth, then it is incumbent upon them to explain to us biblically how the same word is used to describe the unstructural pillars of cloud and fire in Exodus.
While the word עַמּוּד ʻammûwd can be used to describe a structural pillar, it obviously isn’t exclusively used to describe such a pillar. Furthermore, there is no language support whatsoever that this pillar is fixed, attached, supporting, or balancing the earth. This is nothing more than a baseless conjecture by flat earthers not supported by scripture. The indeterminate and ambiguous pillars described by Job could simply be the core of the earth, which is both fixed and fluid, depending on its depth. It is upon this core that all of the earth actually DOES literally rest upon. If flat earthers insist that Job is describing fixed structural pillars that support the earth, then it is incumbent upon them to explain to us biblically how the same word is used to describe the unstructural pillars of cloud and fire in Exodus.
“Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.” – Isaiah 13:13
This is another verse that flat earthers use to try and support the idea that the earth is flat and doesn’t move. The argument is, if the Lord can remove the earth “out of her place”, then it must have had a fixed place to begin with. Again, this is pure conjecture and reading into the text as we will demonstrate. Let’s examine the word “place” since this is the focus of their argument:
Strong’s H4725: מָקוֹם mâqôwm, maw-kome’; or מָקֹם mâqôm; also (feminine) מְקוֹמָה mᵉqôwmâh; or מְקֹמָה mᵉqômâh; from H6965; properly, a standing, i.e. a spot; but used widely of a locality (general or specific); also (figuratively) of a condition (of body or mind):—country, × home, × open, place, room, space, × whither(-soever).
מָקוֹם mâqôwm is a very broad word that is used to describe a locale, a direction, a spot, or simply the same as saying “over here” or “over there”. It isn’t linked to anything firm, fixed, immovable, stationary, or solid. It’s just a descriptive word to determine where something or someone is at a given moment. The word would be used to describe a person in one spot, and then used again to describe their new spot if they were to relocate. There is no implication of permanent anchorage. Since the earth does in fact exist, it has a place where it is supposed to be located in the cosmos, along its orbit. The word מָקוֹם mâqôwm doesn’t negate a path or motion. If one observed a bird flying and landing on a tree branch, the word could be used to point to the bird and say it’s “over here”. If the bird flew off and landed somewhere else entirely, the word could be used again to point to its new locale and say it’s “over there”. It does not exclusively refer to one specific location that cannot change.
The word is even used to simply describe generic empty space:
“And said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room H4725 in thy father’s house for us to lodge in?” – Genesis 24:23
“She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room H4725 to lodge in.” – Genesis 23:25
Therefore, it is concluded that the term מָקוֹם mâqôwm is much too broad and has far too many textual uses to determine any definitive fixed placement of the earth. The מָקוֹם mâqôwm could refer to the earth’s orbit, which is its proper place, or מָקוֹם mâqôwm.
Here’s a couple of other verses in question:
“Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together.” – Isaiah 48:13
“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.” – Job 38:4
Here, the term “foundation of the earth” is argued by flat earthers to again contend that the earth is fixed and immovable. And as before, we need only consult the original text in order to investigate. The term “foundation” is rendered from יָסַד yâçad (H3245). Here is Strong’s definition:
יָסַד yâçad, yaw-sad’; a primitive root; to set (literally or figuratively); intensively, to found; reflexively, to sit down together, i.e. settle, consult:—appoint, take counsel, establish, (lay the, lay for a) found(-ation), instruct, lay, ordain, set, × sure.
Clearly, there is nothing to support a fixed immovable earth from this definition. The word simply means “to establish” something. These passages are telling us that God established the earth. It does not in any way proceed to describe the manner in which the earth sits or its position. This is only more unsupported conjecture that the text does not allow for.
There is another word for foundation, which is more definitive. This word is H4146, מוֹסָדָה môwçâdâh. Observe the following passage:
“And the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations (H4146) of the world were discovered, at the rebuking of the LORD, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.” – 2 Samuel 22:16
This is very interesting! How could the foundations of the earth be discovered? The verse tells us – when the channels of the sea appeared. So let’s examine the word “channels”:
אָפִיק ʼâphîyq, aw-feek’; from H622; properly, containing, i.e. a tube; also a bed or valley of a stream; also a strong thing or a hero:—brook, channel, mighty, river, scale, stream, strong piece.
אָפִיק ʼâphîyq (H650) in this context seems to be referring to the bottom of the sea and its ravines. Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon directly refers to this verse as speaking of “the bottom of the sea”. So studying the original Hebrew word forms, we see that the Bible defines the “foundations” of the earth for us after all as being the deepest part of the earth itself – not some outside support structure!
Are flat earthers really this dogmatic in their position that they would force upon the text something it doesn’t support or allow for in any way? If so, they are making God’s Word subservient to their own understanding, which is in direct conflict with the Word itself:
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
The Ends of the Earth
Here’s another one Skiba refers to:
“For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven;” – Job 28:24
The text in question here is “the ends of the earth”. Flat earthers argue, ‘if the earth has ends, it must be flat because a sphere doesn’t have ends’. This is actually demonstrably false in simply terms of spherical geometry. A sphere has poles, which are its “ends”. These poles can shift or change depending on the orientation of the sphere. Observe someone spinning a basketball on the tip of their finger – one pole, or end of the sphere is in contact with the finger. The other end is directly opposite of it, through the center of the ball, and out the other side.
Now let’s deal with the text. The term “ends” is translated from קָצָה qâtsâh (H7098). This word is a feminine form of the masculine noun קָצֶה qâtseh (H7097). This is extremely important. קָצָה qâtsâh is a more ambiguous term meaning “the uttermost parts of”, or the “extremities”, or “all of”. It simply refers to something being taken as a whole, from one extreme to the other. The masculine noun קָצֶה qâtseh can be more definitive, and mean “edges” or “borders”. The text above is simply stating “he looketh upon the whole earth”.
In only one instance do we see the masculine קָצֶה qâtseh used in conjunction with the earth. What’s interesting, is that in this example, the word for “world” (תֵּבֵל têbêl) is used instead of “earth”:
“Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,” – Psalm 19:4
Strong’s defines the word תֵּבֵל têbêl (H8398) as literally being the globe and its inhabitants:
תֵּבֵל têbêl, tay-bale’; from H2986; the earth (as moist and therefore inhabited); by extension, the globe (emphasis added); by implication, its inhabitants; specifically, a particular land, as Babylonia, Palestine:—habitable part, world.
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon agrees calling it “the habitable globe”. In the ancient time of these scriptures, the known habitable globe was defined as greater Babylonia and Palestine. This verse isn’t referring to the physical state of the earth as a planet or a physical object in the cosmos, but to the extent of its inhabitants.
“Circle of the Earth”
Here’s a favorite among flat earth proponents:
“It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in” – Isaiah 40:22
The phrase “circle of the earth” is being called into question here. Flat earthers ignore that a sphere viewed from any angle appears as a circle, and claim that this verse is definitively describing a flat plane. But once again, the answers are in the original text.
The term for circle is חוּג chûwg (H2329). Strong’s defines this as a “circle, circuit, compass”. Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon considers it a circle or a sphere. So already, it cannot be definitively claimed that this verse is describing a flat plane of earth that is fixed and immovable. Textual support just simply isn’t there. But an entirely new possibility opens up. Since the word חוּג chûwg also means “circuit”, this has very profound implications. A circuit is a path, like an orbit. It is entirely possible the verse is describing God sitting above the “circuit” or “path” or “orbit” of the earth. It cannot be textually dismissed. According to the accepted transliterations, the word חוּג chûwg can mean both “sphere” or “circuit”. Either way, the flat earth interpretation of this passage falls apart. To claim otherwise is to again force the original Hebrew into subservience of the translated English.
Creation, The Firmament, The Heavens & The Earth
Let’s start literally, at the beginning:
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” – Genesis 1:1-2
What is very interesting, is that in Genesis 1:1, God created the heavens and the earth. So both all of the heavens and all of the earth were created at the very beginning before there was anything else in them, around them, over them, or under them. In Genesis 1:2, we have the Spirit of God moving across the face of the waters. So clearly, the “waters” were a critical component to the creation of both heaven and earth, since the only thing created at this point were heaven and earth. Was this literally only water as we think about it – H2O? We don’t know exactly. It is profoundly interesting that the word is plural and not singular. Remember, the earth is void and formless in verse 2, so there is no land to separate one body of water from another. Water at this point it seems would just be water. The Hebrew term for water and waters is מַיִם mayim (H4325):
מַיִם mayim, mah’-yim; dual of a primitive noun (but used in a singular sense); water; figuratively, juice; by euphemism, urine, semen:— piss, wasting, water(-ing, (-course, -flood, -spring)).
Obviously, the term מַיִם mayim can mean much more than H2O, and seems to be able to be used as sort of a generic term to describe organic liquid compounds such as urine or semen, and presumably others. Organic compounds would be exactly what God would need in order to create life within His newly formed creation. Perhaps there was more to these “waters” than just water. We’ll discuss more on the waters in a moment.
Additional verses in question:
“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.” – Genesis 1:6-8
What is this firmament exactly? The Hebrew word is רָקִיעַ râqîyaʻ (H7549), defined by Strong’s below:
רָקִיעַ râqîyaʻ, raw-kee’-ah; from H7554; properly, an expanse, i.e. the firmament or (apparently) visible arch of the sky:—firmament.
As we have been doing, let us once again consult this exact same word as it appears in other places in scripture to get a better understanding of what is being described:
“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament H7549 of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:” – Genesis 1:14
So here we have the stars in heaven clearly being identified “in” the firmament. So whatever the firmament is exactly, is has to be large enough to include all of the stars that God made. This verse alone tells us that it cannot simply be only the visible blue sky above our heads. It must extend further than we can ever imagine in order to include all of the stars and planets.
“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament H7549 of heaven.” – Genesis 1:20
Clearly, birds do not fly in outer space. So this firmament also includes our local atmosphere and the blue sky above us. It doesn’t limit the firmament to that alone – or the previous verse about the stars would be incoherent.
“Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament H7549 of his power.” – Psalm 150:1
“Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament H7549 that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne.” – Ezekiel 10:1
Obviously, there is a firmament of heaven, where the Lord sits according to these passages.
To try and contain the firmament to only fit the flat earth model is ludicrous. The firmament is simply the “expanse”. Picture this: we exist in three spatial dimensions, as well as the fourth dimension of time. God exists in many more dimensions than that – dimensions in which we have no comprehension of. He had to actually create the dimensions of our very existence for us to live within. The “expanse” that we live within is contained in our three spatial dimensions – length, width, and depth. God is spreading out this expanse literally in the midst of the ether in which to put all of His creation. The firmament is literally the expanse of time and space within our dimensions.
Another closely related word is שָׁמַיִם shâmayim (H8064) which translates into “heaven”. Strong’s defines it below:
שָׁמַיִם shâmayim, shaw-mah’-yim; dual of an unused singular שָׁמֶה shâmeh; from an unused root meaning to be lofty; the sky (as aloft; the dual perhaps alluding to the visible arch in which the clouds move, as well as to the higher ether where the celestial bodies revolve):—air, × astrologer, heaven(-s).
The context in which it used throughout the Old Testament is to describe everything from the visible sky where the birds fly, to the domain of God Himself (i.e. heavens, Heaven). Now, observe this:
“And God called the firmament Heaven. H8064 And the evening and the morning were the second day.” – Genesis 1:8
“And God said, Let the waters under the heaven H8064 be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.” – Genesis 1:9
“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven H8064 to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:” – Genesis 1:14
“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. H8064” – Genesis 1:20
According to these verses above, H8064 is a fairly loose term. God actually names the firmament “Heaven” in verse 8; we see that there is a place considered “under the heaven” where the waters are in verse 9; the “firmament of the heaven” is where the stars, planets, and celestial bodies exist in verse 14; and the “open firmament of heaven” is our sky where birds fly.
Absolutely nowhere is there any indication or evidence of flat earth cosmology! The firmament is the expanse of time and space all around us that God created in order to place His creation within; and the heavens are clearly described as anywhere from the sky a hundred feet over our heads, to the far reaches of space and beyond.
Back to the “Waters”
Let’s examine the context of how “water” and “waters” is used, assuming that it is simply H2O in one form or another:
“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” – Genesis 1:2
“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.” – Genesis 1:6-7
“And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.” – Genesis 1:9-10
Now observe carefully – in verse 2 of the first chapter of Genesis, God’s Spirit is moving across the “face of the waters”. However, the waters were not divided until verse 6. How were they divided? Verse 7 tells us exactly – by creating the firmament in the very midst of the waters. The picture that emerges is that the waters were everywhere, as a component of making the heavens and the earth in verse 1. There was no separation between the waters in the heavens and the waters of the earth. It doesn’t specify what physical state these waters existed in either. This could very well be water vapor – which is just as much water as liquid H2O. Whether or not this is the case, what’s being described is somewhat of a greenhouse type effect going on, where everything is contained within and fully immersed in the “waters”. The very firmament (expanse of space and time) that God creates is in the middle of the waters, and divides them between the heavens and earth. A dry expanse created in the midst of water can only function much like an air bubble in the water. An air bubble is globular in shape, which is the only shape that can be maintained within water. A flat surface with a rounded dome over top of it would be what an air bubble would look like on top of the water, because it isn’t completely immersed in the water. And God clearly tells us that His firmament was created in the midst of the waters. With an understanding of basic science and God’s Word, we see a spherical, globular picture taking place in creation!
Since we have demonstrated that the “heavens” includes all of our atmosphere and beyond, these waters that were divided above seem to be describing the water in our upper atmosphere – from the clouds in the sky that collect the water, to the earth’s ozone layer which is rich in water vapor and other greenhouse gases, which determine our climate, and protect the earth from the harmful radiation of the sun (more on our atmosphere here).
What is being described here, is literally God creating our atmosphere and the weather itself! Such a protection barrier would have to surround the earth in a spherical sense to provide protection and contain atmospheric conditions all the way around it. There is absolutely no domelike description found here or elsewhere in the Bible, which would defy the laws of physics by creating a terminating barrier with no explanation where the alleged dome would meet the earth.
To be overly generous to the flat earthers, would be to say that a firm, physical, cosmological description of the earth, its physical structure, and its shape is biblically inconclusive. There is absolutely nowhere in the entirety of the Bible where the Hebrew language allows for a fixed, flat, immovable earth externally supported by pillars. This is pure fantasy, and a product of molesting the text as it is translated into English; and in many cases, even choosing different English translations to find the most pleasing English word usage that seems to support flat earth cosmology.
It has been argued by flat earthers that the glory of a flat earth is the grand secret that would finally and ultimately testify to the wonder of God’s awesome creation. How can this be however – when a flattened, stationary, immovable object supported by structural pillars and columns is a more clear testament to man’s construction prowess?
The truth is however found in the Hebrew, from which the English transliterations derived. This is an inescapable fact that the flat earthers avoid at all costs, desperately forcing the English text to testify to their fantasy. When examined, the Hebrew is ambiguous toward a flat earth, and at times, even seems to suggest something globe-like or spheroid in shape. However, the case isn’t a strong one for either faction. If one must adhere to a flat earth view, then one must leave the Word of God out of it – if one is being intellectually honest.
It has been argued by flat earthers that the glory of a flat earth is the grand secret that would finally and ultimately testify to the wonder of God’s awesome creation. How can this be however – when a flattened, stationary, immovable object supported by structural pillars and columns is a more clear testament to man’s construction prowess? Man constructs things with flat edges and columns – because he is not supernatural, nor does he possess control over all of nature and its laws. Only an incomprehensible Creator God is capable of forming an earth created in perfect balance, “hanging on nothing” as Job says, that constantly orbits the sun in a delicate rhythm – never getting too close or too far away; and movement so precise we literally calculate our understanding of time itself based on its movement – could craft such perfect handiwork. Ancient pagan cultures all had the earth somehow supported or manipulated by something other than the God of creation. Ancient Greeks had it on the shoulders of Atlas, who served as its “pillars”. The Egyptians believed that certain gods of their pantheon actually served as the sky and the earth. Other cultures had the flat earth on the back of a giant tortoise or elephant. What’s shocking, is that Skiba and his followers actually cite these ancient pagans as support for their position! The very pagans who denied our God His creation, are the pagans we’re to consult with on the shape and function of God’s earth. The pseudo-logic being employed here is astounding.
Thankfully, our view of the physical cosmos isn’t of much concern to our Lord – who is focused on our hearts and not our brains. One is free to engage in the flat earth belief to his heart’s content – but to claim God’s Word as support for it is to force doctrine upon the text that the text simply doesn’t allow for. Flat earthers have decided that earth is indeed flat, and feel the need to corroborate their conspiracy using the most authoritative text in existence – even if it means ignoring the text in its original language in order to do so. They would do better to allow the text to speak to them – instead of engaging in flawed eisegesis and forcing the text to testify to that which it clearly doesn’t. To do so is an exercise in utter folly and error.
Further reading: http://parablesblog.blogspot.com/2016/03/addendum-flat-earth-theory.html