The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

Cretinism or Evilution? No. 2
Edited by E.T. Babinski
Henry Morris Denies Geocentrism




Henry Morris' ingenious attempts at denying the bible's geocentrism

Henry Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research, in his book, The Biblical Basis For Modern Science (Baker Book House, 1984), has tried to uncover some Bible verses that depict the earth as moving, yet his inventive "interpretations" are a lot less convincing than the plain meanings that led Christians for centuries to teach that the earth does not move.

ATTEMPT #1: According to Morris a verse in the book of Job implies the rotation of the earth: "It [the earth] is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment." (Job 38:14, King James Version) Morris states, "The figure, in context, is of a clay vessel being turned on a wheel to receive the design impressed upon it by a seal or signet, like the earth as it turns into the dawning sun, gradually revealing the intricate features on its surface." (p. 165)

However, Morris' "context" is illusory. It hinges on the word "turns," which seems to only be found in the King James translation of that verse. I couldn't find another translation that uses the word "turns." Both the Revised Standard Version, and the New American Standard Version, translate this verse, "It is changed like clay under the seal; And they stand forth like a garment." The Amplified Bible states, "It is changed like clay into which a seal is pressed, and things stand out like a many-colored garment." The famous conservative Bible commentator, F. Delitzach, D.D, translated the verse, "That it changeth like the clay of a signet-ring." The liberal Anchor Bible commentator, Marvin H. Pope, translated the verse, "It changes..." Even the New International Version (a favorite with conservative Christians today) translates the verse, "The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment."

Notice that either the King James translators mistranslated this particular verse in Job by employing the wrong word, viz., "turns," when it should have been "changes/takes shape." Or they used "turns" in the Old-English sense of milk "turns" sour, and, Jesus "turns" water into wine, and, meant, "It is turned so [changed/takes shape] as clay to the seal." In which case they were only agreeing with all the other translations cited above. In either case, Morris' "rotating vessel" context remains illusory.

The clay is "changed," or, "takes shape" under the seal = RSV, NASB, AB, NIV, KVJ(?). There is nothing about the clay being "turned" in the sense of "rotated," and hence nothing about a "vessel" or a "wheel."

People of the ancient Near East did press or roll seals on wet clay. But the clay was in the form of flat clay tablets. So if Morris wants to describe the true "context" of this verse in Job, it is of a flat stationary clay tablet, the "earth." And the seal being pressed or rolled across its surface, causes its features to stand out, like the "sun" moving across the heavens. "The cylinder was rolled on the wet clay of the tablet being sealed." [David Maltsberger, "Late Bronze Age Seals," in Field Notes: The Newsletter of Archaeology in Israel and the Near East, Vol. 2, no. 1, Jan./Feb. 1994; see also, Ancient Seals and the Bible, ed., L. Gorelick and Elizabeth Williams-Forte (Malibu: Undena, 1983).]

In summation, these facts "turn" upside down Morris' attempt to find a Bible verse that says the earth moves:

  1. Job 38:14 says nothing about the clay moving, or being "turned." Especially not "as a vessel on a wheel [sic]." The clay is merely spoken of as being "changed," or it "takes shape."

  2. Job 38:14 equates the earth with the clay, most likely a clay tablet, providing further evidence of the ancient belief that the earth did not move. While the seal which left an impression in the clay, and caused it to "change" or "take shape" did move, and that seal portrayed the sun (metaphorically speaking). Hence, Job 38:14 provides yet more evidence of geocentric imagery in the Bible!

Since I have demonstrated that Morris places undue stress upon a faulty "context" of this verse to make it look like it "teaches that the earth rotates." I'd like to stress some far more justifiable A "contexts" to see how they stack up 6 against modern science.

Since Job 38:14 most likely depicts the earth as a clay tablet, it is also, by implication, speaking of a flat earth. Now look at the immediately preceding verse.

Job 38:13 speaks of dawn grasping the earth by its "extremity or hem" (Heb. kanap; cf. Num. 15:38 and 1 Sam. 15:27) and shaking the wicked-or, the "wickedness of darkness" (AB) -- out of it. The picture is metaphorical, comparing the earth to a blanket or garment picked up at one end and shaken. This is immediately followed by the depiction of the earth as a clay tablet, whose surface is changed by the seal which is pressed on (or rolled across) it. After which, its "features stand out like those of a garment." Those two verses employ three flat metaphors for the earth, all in a row!

  1. grabbing the "ends of the earth" like it was a blanket or garment being shaken;

  2. a [flat] clay tablet; and

  3. a [flat] surface of a garment whose color or pattern stands out.

Neither does the author of Job refrain from implying the earth's flatness in other passages. For instance, "[God's] measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea," "Who stretched the line on [the earth]?", and, "He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens (Job 11:9, 38:5, and 28:24). Not to forget all the other verses in Job, already mentioned above, that depict stars moving instead of the earth: God "leads forth" the constellations in "their season," instead of "leading forth" the earth in "its season." (Job 38:32) Therefore, all available evidence points to the author of Job viewing the earth as immobile...and flat.

Of course, the book of Job does state that "He hangs the earth on nothing (or, literally, without anything)" (26:7). But that does not say the earth moves, it says it is "hung by God," which implies no movement. It doesn't even say what the shape of the earth is. It only stresses the power of God in being able to "hang it." Ancient Egyptian iconography, for instance, depicts ka, a personal power, supporting a flat earth disc "on nothing" but ka's power -- "without anything" but ka supporting it. In another ancient Egyptian account, Khepra begins creation by conceiving a "[flat] standing place," hanging on nothing.

Also apropos of any discussion of the book of Job is the fact that later in the book, after Job has said, "He (God) hangs the earth upon nothing," God rebukes Job with a series of sarcastic questions that imply Job did - not know what he was talking about. God's rebuke further implies a flat earth: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?...On what were its bases sunk?...Have you understood (or examined) the expanse of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this!" (Job 38:4,6,18) (Compare Job 26:5-7 with Job 38:i6-18 for a series of three rebukes that God meted out to Job for speaking presumptuously on three specific matters which God says Job "did not see or know" anything about.)

Jeremiah, like the book of Job, declared that the mystery of the foundation of the earth was one that only God would ever know the answer to, "If the...foundations of the earth (can be) searched out below, then I will cast off...Israel." (Jer. 31:37). In other words, just as Israel will never be "cast off," the "foundations" of the flat-earth Hebrew cosmos are portrayed as remaining "unsearchable" or "unknowable."

Speaking of those "foundations," the ancient Hebrews were gravely unsettled each time their "firmly established" flatearth cosmos suffered an "earthquake." They viewed it as a sign of God's immense power and wrath, shaking heaven above and the flat earth below. The stars might even fall. After all, according to Genesis the stars were only "set" in the firmament above the earth after the earth was created, like little light fixtures "set" in the ceiling after the home has been built.

Although the occasional "shaking" of the earth during an earthquake inspired the ancient Hebrews to write about it, there is no evidence that they were ever inspired to write about the movement of the earth!

Likewise, there is no evidence that the ancient Hebrews were ever inspired to write about modern astronomical conceptions of the earth. They demonstrate no knowledge of the fact that the earth is merely one of nine planets (not even the largest planet), all spinning like tops and circling round the sun. Where is that in the Bible? Or a cosmos where it's more likely for earth-sized planets to fall into a star, than for all the "stars" to "tall to earth." The ancient Hebrews;, like the ancient Babylonians, were equally ignorant of such modern scientific notions. ("He [the god Marduk] created the (heavenly) places and fashioned the firm earth." ENUMA ELISH, ancient flat-earth Babylonian creation account, Tablet 7 verse 135)

Only after the Copernican Revolution were human poets "inspired" to compose verses depicting the brave new cosmos. See, for instance, "Poetic Responses to the Copernican Revolution" by Margaret M. Byard in Scientific American (June, 1977, p. 121-129.)

ATTEMPT #2: Morris' second attempt at denying the Bible's geocentrism is based on Luke 17:34-36, which he says implies "the rotation of the earth." He admits that this verse only implies rather than states outright that the earth moves. However, such an "implication" as we shall see, is incorrect. Besides, Morris ignores the numerous passages which unmistakably assert the immobility of the earth and assert that God moves, or commands the movements of, numerous heavenly objects that modern science {caches do not move "daily" and "seasonally" in relation to the earth.

Morris cites Luke 17:34-36, which speaks of Jesus' second coming, "In that night, there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women will be grinding together...Two men shall be in the field." "In other words," says Morris, "this great event will take place instantaneously at night, in the morning, and in the afternoon. Such a combination would be possible only on an earth in which day and night could be occurring simultaneously, and that means a rotating earth." (p. 247)

What Morris fails to notice is that Jesus' dictum that "No one knows the day or the hour" inspired Luke's multiple illustrations, including a bedtime illustration. Luke has simply mixed together three distinct possibilities and is not stressing their "simultaneity." Luke is saying, "Be ready at all times for the coming of the Son of Man, no matter what you may be doing, working in the field, sleeping in bed, or grinding meal." For, depending on when it happens, the Son of Man might arrive at an early hour of the day, a later hour of the day, or at night."No one knows the day or the hour."

Besides, the passage in Luke that Morris makes so much of is repeated almost identically in Matthew 24:40-41, which mentions only "men in the field" and "women grinding," i.e., activities that may be performed at the same hour of the day when Christ comes. The point that the two gospel authors are trying to make is not in reference to astronomy but to apocalyptic expectations. According to them, "Christ's return" will reveal a wide separation between hearts joined together by toil or friendship: Two men may share a bed together, two women work as closely as at the handle of one hand mill, and "one shall be taken, the other left." Certainly no more can be made of Luke's inclusion of a bedtime illustration than Matthew's exclusion of one. Was Luke's Gospel "more astronomically inspired" than Matthew's?

If, as Morris' book insists, modern astronomy is "Biblically based," then why can't he find a single verse that states the earth moves? Why does he ignore the many verses to the contrary? And why were so many Christian Biblical interpreters so hostile for so many centuries to the theory of heliocentrism [=a sun-centered system] even though they had the Bible and the Holy Spirit to "lead them into all truth?"

Henry Morris is trying to get out of a tight spot. He's stuck between a rock and a hard place, because he won't abandon his belief that the Bible is "the basis for modern science," and at the same time he accepts all the scientific evidence in favor of heliocentrism. So, he has to ignore the many embarrassing geocentric verses in the Bible, and invent "heliocentric contexts" for one or two verses to try and "prove" the Bible's "scientific accuracy" -- "implications" that only he "sees." Are we to believe that men, like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, who for centuries before him studied the Bible and who were led by the Holy Spirit, were all unable to "see" the marvelous heliocentric truths in Job and Luke that Morris was able to find? Indeed, even Galileo was unable to discover the proper "implications" of such verses, though he certainly sought diligently for some support from the Bible for his heliocentric views. Maybe what Galileo needed was a King James Bible, like the one Morris used, so he too could misinterpret the meaning of the word "turned?"

Morris does all this in his attempt to try and make the Bible "appear" heliocentric. If I was a Bible believer, I'd say that Morris is in effect "adding and subtracting" to the plain Words of God, just as he blames "liberals" for doing.





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