Do The Bible's geocentric claims highlight its outdated nature?Almost exactly 500 years ago, Nicolaus Copernicus proved that the Earth orbits the Sun. After a lot of resistance to this fact, the...

Do The Bible's geocentric claims highlight its outdated nature?

Almost exactly 500 years ago, Nicolaus Copernicus proved that the Earth orbits the Sun. After a lot of resistance to this fact, the heliocentric model is now accepted as true. But the Bible, which is much older than Copernicus, clearly accepts the geocentric model.

(from wikipedia...)

Biblical references Psalm 93:196:10, and 1 Chronicles 16:30 include text stating that "the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved." In the same manner, Psalm 104:5 says, "the Lord set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved." Further, Ecclesiastes 1:5 states that "And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place" etc.

Do these blunt, primitive errors in the Bible cast doubt on the value of the rest of the text? Shouldn't we conclude that if The Bible's views on the solar system are out-dated, then the Bible's views on society (eg. morality, sex, crime and punishment, women, government, money, human rights, etc) are also outdated?

Why should the moral value system of various, unenlightened, unelected, iron-age nomads be relevant to post-modern, 21st century American society?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

There is no real connection between scientific knowledge and moral correctness.  In other words, the fact that a text like the Bible is fatally flawed in its science does not mean anything about the moral code that it advocates.  So I think that these are two very different things and that there is no reason to say "the Bible is wrong about geocentrism so it's wrong about morals as well."  You can criticize the Bible's morals on their own merits as Post #7 does, but the fact that it is wrong on the science has no connection to this.

wannam's profile pic

wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

Personally, I think that depends on how you interpret those verses.  I tend to think of the Bible as more metaphorical than factual.  For example, the Bible says God created the heavens and the earth in seven days.  I tend to believe this is  not a literal seven days.  When I look at verses like "the Lord set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved," I tend to believe this means that the Lord created the Earth as it is and, in the human lifespan, it will not be moved from where it is.  Of course, we know the Earth rotates, but this verse isn't necessarily denying that.  Perhaps I have not studied these verses as thoroughly as others, but I do not see a geocentric model clearly spelled out as the only meaning to these verses.

larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I find it interesting that you ask if these claims "highlight its outdated nature." It appears you have already come to your own conclusion and want verification rather than information. It is easy to dispose of the Bible as outdated because of apparently Geocentric references, particularly if, as I suspect, one has already determined that that this is the case and is only searching for justification of that conclusion. No serious scholar of the Bible would insist that every word be interpreted literally. As Post #4 correctly states, it was written by fallible human beings and contains the obvious flaws that fallible human beings are prone to produce. It still, however, offers great moral truths and lessons for life that are timeless. I agree wholeheartedly with Spearmerfam that one does not wish to throw out the baby with the bathwater; unless of course one has predetermined that the baby is inconsequential as long as the bathwater goes. Bottom line: although many parts of the Bible are not factually accurate, it can hardly be classified as outdated, unless, you're looking for a good excuse to dismiss it as outdated.

pacorz's profile pic

pacorz | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

The Bible is an important historical document, but it was created by fallible humans, was handed down orally for centuries before being written down, and subsequently has undergone many linguistic translations, edits, and interpretations, many of them politically motivated. It's important for us, as the sophisticated beings you are implying we are now, to keep that in perspective.

There are many science-type observations in the Bible that we now know are not factually correct, but that reflect the understanding of the times they were written in. This is also true of many secular documents - how could it be otherwise? We only know what we know at any given time, but it's human nature to wonder, speculate, hypothesize, and that's where progress comes from.

Are there social values that are similarly outdated in the Bible? Undoubtedly. Does that mean the whole document is invalid in this regard? Absolutely not. If we were to follow that logic, we would have to discard or disregard pretty much every document written more than ten years ago.

belarafon's profile pic

belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Much of the Bible's text -- well, most of it, to be honest -- can be interpreted in different ways. Depending on the translation you follow, you can come up with wildly differing meanings. Remember, some of the English texts used today were translated from the Septuagint Greek, which was taken from the original Hebrew, and so words changed. It is usually accepted that the original Hebrew of the Old Testament is accurate, and so the modern English translations should be used for reference.

With that said, knowledge of science changes. People in Biblical times had no concept of other worlds aside from the spiritual ones; the idea that the Earth could exist in a vast vacuum surrounded by millions of other worlds would be incomprehensible. Remember that the Bible was written and passed down by human hands, even if we ascribe a spiritual origin. Accordingly, we should take from the bible whichever lessons we feel applicable to our lives, and allow the others a literary license.

lorrainecaplan's profile pic

Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Do we want to throw the baby out with the bath water here?  Your question could just as easily apply to the United States Constitution.  The Bible, I think, is clearly relevant to us, but those who believe it should be applied literally miss the point.

There is no question that the system of morality of the world of the Bible is geocentric, patriarchal, and brutal.  But these are tales of how to live with one another, as people and as societies, and tales of how to live with the idea of a higher being who will help us to be our own best selves.  Does it even matter whether we invented God or he invented us?  Not killing one another, not coveting one another's possessions, not stealing are values that we still need today, perhaps more than ever. Does this mean we should stone the adulteress to death?  Certainly not. Does this mean that the seas will part for us when we are in trouble?  I don't think so.  But we can interpret these stories in a way that is of use to us, to help us understand how to live with ourselves and one another.

 

frizzyperm's profile pic

frizzyperm | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

There is no real connection between scientific knowledge and moral correctness.  In other words, the fact that a text like the Bible is fatally flawed in its science does not mean anything about the moral code that it advocates.  So I think that these are two very different things and that there is no reason to say "the Bible is wrong about geocentrism so it's wrong about morals as well."  You can criticize the Bible's morals on their own merits as Post #7 does, but the fact that it is wrong on the science has no connection to this.

I think there is a connection between science and morality in the bible. Basically, the science in the bible is almost neolithic, and the morals are too.

Morality is not a fixed thing. It is a field of study and a changing social construct. It has come a VERY long way in the last 2500 years. The morality in the bible is provably archaic. Here is some of the bible's moral advice. Remember, this was considered good moral behaviour by the authors of the bible...

1) If you believe your new bride is not a virgin, you and your family should drag her back to her dad's house and stone her to death on his dooorstep.

2) Anyone who works on Sunday should be... stoned to death.

3) Adultery... stoned to death

4) rude to your parents... stoned to death

5) rude to god... stoned to death.

etc

etc

I'm sorry, but the idea that the bible is an everlasting pinnacle of moral thought is a total fallacy. Unsurprisingly, the bible merely reflects the morals of the primitive tribesmen who wrote it and we should stop pretending otherwise. Put bluntly, is there ANYONE in America who would welcome angry mobs organising the ad hoc public stoning of suspected adulterers and slouchy teenagers? Because that is what the bible says is the moral thing to do

frizzyperm's profile pic

frizzyperm | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Some comments on this page that say, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater." They suggest that even though the bible has plenty of mistakes there are still rich diamonds hidden in its pages.

If we shouldn't throw the 'baby' out with the 'bathwater', (and the 'bathwater' is all those awful injunctions to stone almost all of us to death (we're YOU a virgin when YOU got married; have you ever worked on the sabbath; have you ever taken God's name in vain; were you rude to your parents, etc, etc)) Well, OK, so... what's the 'baby'?

I'm sorry, but EVERY stone-age village had 'Don't Kill' and 'Don't Steal' in its value system. And EVERY two-bit religion has 'do unto others as you would do unto you'. These claims are not unique to the bible. I'll grant that The Sermon on the Mount is reasonably special and was a ground-breaking, socialist idea, but it was not uniquely unimaginable and half a page from a 1000+ page book is not a good hit rate.

The bible is totally and provably errant in places (are bats birds?) and this casts genuine doubt on the 'divine guidance' claim. So we are left with the moral prognostications from a diverse group of ancient tent-dwellers. Seriously, I mean no direct offence but I want to know; what's the 'baby' which is left over after we have chucked out the 'bathwater'?

What are the bible's unique features, after we have glossed over its numerous inconsistencies?

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