Does the Bible state that the earth is spherical?

Inspired by this thread :

Do any of the writers of the Bible ever state that the earth is a sphere?

No, but they don’t state that it’s not a sphere, either.

Since when was the Bible considered an almanac?

Eh, maybe.

Some people have interpreted “circle of the earth” to mean that the earth is a sphere. Others say that the author most likely meant round but flat, like a pancake.

Make of that what you will.

Well, a circle is not a sphere, though as ecg points out, you could dismiss this as poetic. It’s also possible the original Hebrew word is something slightly different from circle.

Interestingly both flat-earthers and creationists (making the claims that the bible says the earth is a sphere so it works as a science text book) point to the same verse.

Do Not Taunt:

Technically, the word used (Choog) means the “circumference”, a term that could apply to either a two-dimensional circle or to a three-dimensional sphere. And it’s obviously poetic language, as Judaism does not believe that G-d, incorporeal being that he is believed to be, literally sits. When G-d’s behavior is described using words that logically apply only to beings with bodies, it’s speaking figuratively by using terms humans can relate to.

At the time the “circle of the Earth” was written in the Bible, hadn’t the Greeks already figured out that it’s a sphere?

Revelation 20:8 refers to Satan deceiving nations in the “four corners” of the earth, so that would imply a flat, square earth if taken literally. Of course, it’s not meant to be taken literally, since “the four corners of the earth” is a figure of speech that is still used in modern times.

ETA: Isaiah 41:9 also refers to “the ends of the earth” - again, a figure of speech that if taken literally would imply a non-spherical world.

Actually, now that I’ve done a full text search, the phrase “ends of the earth” appears many times in the Bible.

(Edit - Skammer’s posts weren’t there when I began typing my reply)

And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah 11:12King James Version (KJV)

Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land. [land is rendered as Earth in some translations]
Ezekiel 7:2 King James Version (KJV)

And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
Revelation 7:1 King James Version (KJV)

No. Isaiah was probably written mostly 8th century BC, and the Greeks first mentioned the possibility of a spherical earth ~6th century BC.

Isaiah 40 could have come later, however, but even so, the Greeks weren’t *confident *in a sperical earth until the 3rd century BC.

Fair enough.

I imagine the ancient Hebrew conception of God probably varied quite a bit from time to time and even from person to person. Is it really a certainty that an 8th century BC author conceived on an incorporeal god?

That means one of two things:

  1. The Bible contradicts itself.
  2. One ore more (or all!) of these passages were intended to be interpreted metaphorically.

Good points. Understanding most ancient (and modern!) writing requires that one accept that writers did, and do, use metaphors, figures of speech, and other non-literal narrative devices. Not understanding this leads to absurd literalistic interpretations and other problems.

Consider today’s writing. Suppose someone 2000 years from now finds a history book published in 2016 that mentions that Ronald Reagan became president in a “landslide” election, and thus concludes that Republicans were expert geologic engineers that killed their opponents by crushing them with giant rocks. Is that a fair interpretation? Why or why not?

To all who mention “ends of the earth” and/or “four corners of the earth” - in those references (at least the Old Testament ones, I don’t know Revelation), it means land, not earth as planet. Those passages specifically refer to gathering in lost PEOPLE, or punishing evil PEOPLE, hence, it refers to the furthest reaches of human habitation, i.e., landmass. (For contrast, see Esther 10:1 - “And King Ahaseurus placed a tax upon the land and the islands of the sea” - obviously, the sea and islands therein are still part of this planet.)

The “circle/sphere” of the Earth of Isaiah 40:22 is describing G-d in grand terms, and is meant to refer to the astronomical “circle/sphere” concept that was a common part of ancient cosmologies.

Do Not Taunt:

I guess it depends on when you think Deuteronomy was composed. Deuteronomy 4:12 is pretty emphatic that G-d has no form, and it’s that verse that Maimonides cites as the source for G-d’s non-corporeality being an essential component of Judaic belief.

Here’s an old article on passages that seem to indicate that the bible indicates a flat earth. Nothing absolutely conclusive, of course, and the article is meant to be a little satirical.

Personally, I think the older passages of the bible do indicate a flat earth with a vault (“firmament”) over it and water above the vault. From what I understand this model is consistent with the cosmologies of the surrounding cultures.

Since people are clearly not covered in chitinous exoskeletons, comparing them to grasshoppers is an obvious contradiction. :slight_smile:

I don’t claim that I know enough to have my own opinion here. But in re-skimming the SDSAB article about who wrote the Bible, it suggests that Deuteronomy was composed during the time of Josiah, 640-609 BC, drawing on older works. Was this particular verse part of the tradition by then? Or did the concept of an incorporeal god evolve somewhere along the way, not fully baked by 800 BC, from earlier traditions that had corporeal gods with physical manifestations that local peoples, including Hebrews, worshipped at various times?

In Matthew 4:8, Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world from a high mountain.

That’s only possible on a flat Earth.

Passages such as these are cited by Christian Flat Earthers. There’s no question in their mind that the Bible asserts the Earth is flat and Evil Scientists and such are hiding The Truth.

Note that learned Greeks knowing the Earth is round has no bearing on this. It really wasn’t all that common knowledge even in areas that had been under Greek rule before Jesus’ time.

The extra-canonical Book of Enoch is very clear about the Earth being flat (with edges as well as stationary). It was well known in New Testament times, referenced in Jude and 2 Peter. Fragments of it were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was written between 300 and probably before the Maccabean revolt.

Your standard Hebrew writer of the era very likely had a similar mindset of flatness.

There are a lot of web pages discussing the flat Earth and the Bible. E.g., this one.

You have to get quite twisty to show that the Biblical writers knew the Earth was round.