f the beaten NCCG.ORG Lev's Qavod: 16 December 2016 - Flat Earth: II. Problems of Perception
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Month 9:17, Week 3:2 (Shanee/Matzah), Year:Day 5940:253 AM
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50
Gregorian Calendar: Friday 16 December 2016
Flat-Earth
II. Problems of Perception

    Continued from Part 1


    To avoid any misunderstanding, the author wishes it to be known that the thesis of this essay is not that you have to be an intellectual Bible scholar in order to be saved. You can be unstudied and be saved using any number of English Bible translations. The matter under discussion is solely Biblical cosmology, or the science and literature of the cosmos and in particular, the structure of the earth and its relationship to the sun, which is not a salvational issue.


    From the Earliest Times...

    From the very beginning of the Messianic era, Christian theologians have accepted, almost without exception, the fact that the earth is a sphere barring a spell in the Middle Ages. The only two Christian writers known to have advocated a flat earth were a 4th-century heretic, Lucius Lactantius, and an obscure 6th-century ex-sailor and Egyptian Monk, Cosmas Indicopleustes. The Greeks, Europe's first scientists, had known the world was a sphere and had even worked out its circumference reasonably accurately. It was not until the Roman culture prevailed on our sub-continent that flat-earth ideas prevailed for a while.

    The Darwinist Plot to Discredit Christians

    In more modern times, Darwinists have tried to lump Christians and flat-earthers together as a means to discredit creationism but as creationist Jerry Bergman points out:

      "The idea that Christians once commonly believed in a flat earth for theological reasons is a myth. The story was invented to promote the claim that Christians have widely resisted scientific advancement due to doctrinal constraints. A major motivating factor behind propagating this myth has been to bolster the Darwinian worldview and to further the goal of displacing the biblical worldview. No evidence exists to support the common claim that scientists were once persecuted for opposing the flat-earth belief or advocating the spherical earth view, which has been commonly accepted for millennia" [1].

    The Issue Was Earth's Size

    The evolutionist Professor of Psychology, Southeastern Louisiana University, Matt J. Rossano, writing in the secular liberal Huffington Post, agrees:

      "There never was a flat earth dogma. When Columbus faced off with the Spanish cardinals, the issue was the size of the earth, not its shape" [2].

    The Overturning of Myths

    Better, more rigorous history is overturning many of the myths about a previous golden age in which 'flat-earth truth' allegedly prevailed. Daniel Boorstin stated:

      "A Europe-wide phenomenon of scholarly amnesia...afflicted the continent from AD 300 to at least 1300. During those centuries Christian faith and dogma suppressed the useful image of the world that had been so slowly, so painfully, and so scrupulously drawn by ancient geographers" [3]

    Conspiracies

    Unfortunately that mediaeval 'amnesia' has once again been resurrected in our day. Who began this 'revival' is uncertain but sadly a lot of very gullible Christians and Messianics, with little or no scientific training, and even less historical and literary understanding of the Bible, have enthusastically adopted this creed, claiming the sphere-shaped earth teaching is all part of a giant conspiracy to keep us ignorant and to siphon off billions for a make-believe space program. And whilst I would be the first to admit that conspiracies abound in this world, I have to say that the real conspiracy is the flat-earth brain-child of that same cabal that has fooled the world into accepting the Ponzi scheme fraud that is fractional-reserve banking.

    The Burden of Proof

    There is no doubt in my mind, from my brushes with them on the Internet particularly over the last 20 years, that many of the 21st century flat-earthers are consumed by an irrational religious zeal that demands fellow Christians and Messianics step back into the Dark Ages and reject the heliocentric truth of the solar system so painstakingly established by Christian as well as non-Christian scientists employing methods testable and verifiable by anyone. They did so at great personal cost against the prejudice and ignorance of their own day. The burden of proof for a geocentric universe is with the flat-earthers, not the other way round, and the evidence they have been able to marshal so far is, in my estimation, miniscule, unsystematic and utterly unconvincing.

    A Critic Objects

    Yesterday I was sent a list of scriptures 'proving' the flat-earth. Since I realise that most flat-earthers are not scientists and don't want to be challenged by that discipline (as opposed to the politicised version wrongly called 'science' which I suspect they freely dip into), I am going to shift the discussion to Scripture again. For the sake of rigour, I now reproduce the entire post of a critic of the first article with corrected typos:

      FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION, THE EARTH IS CONSISTENTLY DESCRIBED (BY HOLY SPIRIT-INSPIRED AUTHORS) AS:

      - 1. Fixed and not moving (spinning, orbiting, etc).

      - 2. Circular, with edges/corners/pillars/foundations, etc.

      - 3. Under a dome, within which the sun, moon and stars were placed on Day 4 [of Creation].

    The Heavenly Bodies Were Around Before Any 'Dome'

    I should point out at this juncture that there is already an error in point #3 that I addressed in my article, Genesis 1: How Old is Creation?, particularly if you are of the school that the Genesis creation account is not a re-forming of the earth but an de novo, ex nihilo work, that illustrates how easy it is to get biblical cosmology wrong in trusting faulty translations. You will recall that the sun, moon and stars were not 'created' on Day #4 but were made visible on that day from the perspective of someone standing on the earth. This at once dismantles the 'fixed vault' or 'solid firmamemt' dogma derived from the poetry of the ancients which our commentator advances in Point #2 that follows, since where were these heavenly bodies if there was nothing yet to 'fix' them in yet?

    The 7 Flat-Earth Biblical Theses

    We resume the critic's theological thesis:

    1. According to the Bible, we live in a self-contained, three-tiered system {Heaven, Earth, Underworld}: Job 1:7-8; 2:2-3; 37:12; 38:30-34; Gen. 28:12-17; Ex. 20:4; Num. 16:31-33; Deut. 5:8; 1 Sam. 28:13-14; 1 Chron. 29:11; 2 Chron. 6:4; Psa. 46:8-10; 113:6; 119:19; Isa. 14:9-11; 51:13-14; Joel 2:30; Amos 9:2; Luke 10:15; 16:19-31; Acts 2:19; Phil. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:18-20; 2 Pet. 2:4-5; Jude 6; Rev. 5:3, 13; 9:1-11; 20:14 (See also: 2 Esdr. 4:7-8; 1 Enoch 89:1-9; Pesachim 94b);

    2. There is a solid firmament (dome/vault) over us: Job 22:14; 37:18; Gen. 1:6-8, 20; Ex. 24:10; Psa. 104:2; Prov. 8:27-28; Isa. 40:21-22; 45:12; 66:1; Jer. 10:12; 51:15; Ezek. 1:22-26; Amos 9:6 (See also: 2 Apoc. Baruch 21:4; Gen. Rabbah 4.5.2; Josephus Antiquities 1:30)

    3. YHVH's throne sits above the heavens (waters): Job 9:8; 22:14; 37:18; Deut. 26:15; Psa. 11:4; 29:3, 10; 33:13; 103:19; 104:2-3; 148:4; Isa. 40:21-22; 66:1; Jer. 10:12-13; Ezek 1:22-28; 28:2; Amos 9:6

    4. The sun, moon and stars are in the firmament {and the stars shall fall to Earth}: Gen. 1:14-18; Psa. 19:4-6; Isa. 34:4; Dan. 8:10; Matt. 24:29; Mark 13:25; 2 Peter 3:10; Rev. 6:13-14; 9:1; 12:4

    5. There are "floodgates" (windows) in the firmament: Gen. 7:11; 8:2; 2 Kings 7:2-19; Mal. 3:10

    6. Earth is inscribed in a circular (flat) fashion into something with 4 corners and surrounded by water: Job 11:9; 26:10-11; 37:3; 38:12-18; Gen. 1:1-9; 49:25; Psa. 24:1-2; 72:8; 136:6; Prov. 8:27-29; Isa. 11:12; 13:5; 40:22; 41:8-9; 44:24; Ezek. 7:2; Dan. 4:10-11, Zech. 9:10; Matt. 4:8; 24:31; Rev. 7:1; 20:8

    7. Earth is a geocentric, stationary world set on pillars: Job 26:11; 38:4-6; Josh. 10:13; Psa. 19:4-6; 75:3; 104:5; Prov. 8:29; Ecc. 1:5; 1 Sam. 2:8; 2 Sam. 22:8; Joel 2:10; Zech. 12:1

    The Critic's 'Admonitions'

    These references were then followed by some scriptural admonitions to 'seal' the flat-earth model as 'truth' (and specifically the headers offered as summaries of the verses) and not to violate that 'truth' - 'or else' - on the following grounds:

      "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness" (1 Corinthians 3:19), "Better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man" (Psalm 118:8), "Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15), "Hold on to what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21)"

    In grand conclusion, the final admonition was made:

      "When you study the Bible right from the very beginning you'll see that the theories of man have twisted and lied about all of God's creation." [4]

    Context is Everything

    It is none of my business to argue with the words of Scripture, especially the ones cited above, nor would I ever attempt to. What is my business, and the business of every serious Bible scholar, is to ensure that the interpretion of such verses is done in context. The addage, "a text without a context is a pretext" needs to be remembered, as we shall see with one or two examples in a munute. As James Kennison reminds us:

      "Let the text speak for itself. We all have our pet beliefs and ideas of what the Bible says, but we must hold all of that loosely and let it go all together when we study scripture. You take meaning from scripture, not read meaning into it.

      "In other words, a scripture read without thought to the surrounding verses is easily misconstrued. Each verse lies inside a chapter. Each chapter inside a Book, inside a Testament, and inside the whole of Scripture. To properly pull the truth from a scripture it must be understood within the context of the segment itís in, the chapter itís in and the book as a whole. When doing so we find that each book has a specific purpose and/or theme. The verse takes on a broader meaning when you realize who it was written by, who it was written to and why it was written at all" [5]

    One Bible Version is Inadequate

    We can't just stop there, though. The Bible did not arise in a vacuum. You can't just publish a translation of the Scriptures and say, 'There it all is, this version is inspired, just use the English words there to figure it all out'. In my article, Which Bible Version? Examining the HalleluYah Scriptures II, a version which refuses to use footnotes of any kind explaining textual variants or indicate translation difficulties, I address this issue, which is similar to the King James-Only position which holds to the ridiculous position that the English translation of 1611 is infallibly accurate, a claim not even made by its translators. So many mistakes, some quite serious, have been made taking such radically over-simplified positions, not to mention the fact that it creates attitudes of exclusivity conducive to a cultic spirit. This is why I recommend that serious scholarly versions like the NRSV (liberal) and ESV (conservative) be used. "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose," said Shakespeare in his play, The Merchant of Venice (I.iii.99), and so do a lot of believers driven by unbiblical doctrines. Rather, our attitude should be that of George Herbert who, waxing lyrical, exclaimed:

      "Oh that I knew how all Thy lights combine,
      And the configurations of their glorie!
      Seeing not onely how each verse doth shine,
      But all the constellations of the storie!"
      (The Holy Scriptures II)

    The Exegete's Whole Bible Perspective

    My job today, I believe, is to present the whole biblical context of these seven categorties of scriptures and not try to read them in isolation, either from each other or from the rest of the Bible. This is quite a big job and I may not be able to to it in one article but we shall make a start. It is not enough to grab a Bible Dictionary and a Concordance and start compiling, even if that's a start. Proper exegesis is careful historical, literary and theological analysis coupled with what scholars call 'close reading' which is the deliberate, word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase consideration of all the parts of a text in order to understand it as a whole. In any discussion, I insist that Graham's Hierarchy of Argument be used. Most believers don't know how to do this in the presentation of their beliefs (right or wrong) and usually end up name-calling, making ad hominem attacks, responding to tone and contradicting themselves. I personally have no time for the latter because all discussion is fruitless and just goes around in circles.

    The Three Exegetical Questions

    Most Bible students do not understand the importance of the historical and literary components. Questions have to be asked such as, 'what situation seems to have been the occasion for the writing of this text?', 'what kind of literature is this text, and what are its literary aims?' and 'what great theological question or issue does this text engage, and what claims on its readers does it make?' But you can't stop there. Responsible readers of the Bible must attempt to identify the literary form and genre of the texts they study and to understand the principles of interpretation that govern each type.

    Biblical Genres

    Biblical books exist in many different genres, for example:

    • 1. Historical narrtives;
    • 2. Collections of Hymns;
    • 3. Visions;
    • 4. Oracles;
    • 5. Letters.

    Biblical Forms

    Within these there are a variety of forms, for example:

    • 1. Short Stories;
    • 2. Poems;
    • 3. Parables;
    • 4. Proverbs;
    • 5. Sermons;
    • 6. Laws.

    Two Questions to Ask

    Thus, when faced with cosmological passages such as are included in the seven categoies supplied by the critic, two vitally important questions have to be asked:

    • 1. What kind of writing is this?
    • 2. Are there general principles for the interpretation of this kind of writing that need to be used?

    The Books of Daniel and Revelation are notoriously hard to interpret. People arrive at all sorts of false exegesis for failing to understand that these writings constitute a type all of their own, namely, apocalyptic. This type uses lavish symbolism and needs to be read more like poetry than historical narrative. So many inexperiences Bible students confuse prose with poetry and try to make the poetry out to be literal.

    The Story of Percy Collet and Psalm 91:4

    Let me give you an example and a true story. It concerns a very poetic passage from the Psalms:

      "He (Yahweh) will cover you with His feathers,
      and under His wings you will find refuge;
      His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart"
      (Ps.91:4, NIV).

    Now I know of one minister, Percy Collet, now deceased, who claims to have visited Heaven for several days. He claims that while He was there He met with, and talked to, 'God', whom he also saw. He said that 'God' had literal wings and that feathers literally came out of His wings and 'covered' him. While he was alive, this charismatic minister sold thousands of tapes and made numerous converts spouting this sort of nonsense. Not until he died were most of his followers convinced that he was either a liar or deluded because Collet had prophesied that he would not die before Christ returned.

    An Error of Grammatical Construction

    Now you may laugh at this but you'd be surprised the nonsense people believe because they misunderstand the kind of literature they are reading in the Bible. Very few believe that Psalm 91:4 is anything other than poetic and parabolic. It is consistent with this genre of writing. Collet not only misunderstood this but made an error of grammatical construction too, because the phrase "cover you with his feathers" is just another way of saying "under His wings" - it isn't saying that the feathers detatched and incorporated whoever was under them into a pile of feathers. This is a very common device in the Hebrew language and you'll see it employed all over the Bible where one thing is being said in two different ways, not two different things.

    Return of the Charismatics

    As far as Collet's experience is concerned (I have listened to all his tapes and know his story well), my own belief is that he was sincerely deluded and was taken into the psychic realm, not the spiritual, where he was spade-fed a whole skein of lies by the Enemy. It happens all the time amongst Pentecostals and Charismatics. All of his materials were taken down from the Internet for years after he died but have since, unfortunately, started reappearing along with a 'map' of Heaven.

    Other Penetcostals in Heaven

    A lot of Pentecostal evangelists like John Lake have claimed to have visited heaven, like Percy Collett, Dudley Danielson, Marvin Ford, Aline Baxley, Kenneth Hagin, Sr., Benny Hinn, Roberts Lairdon, and many others, many of whose doctrines and teachings are way off the Biblical beaten track. Percy Collet was not the only one to make ridiculous statements based on misunderstood Scriptures. In 1977 Richard Eby claimed that he died and went to heaven, bringing back the 'revelation' that "the primary nerve in Godís cranium is the sense of smell." That isn't to say there aren't genuine experiences of Heaven, I just don't think most of them are genuine. (See Near Death Experiences).

    Knowing the Type of Scripture You are Reading

    But I digress. I share this only to make a simple but very important point: Be sure you know what type of Scripture you are reading before you start trying to interpert it. So many people who claim to be led by the 'Holy Spirit' don't follow this simple exegetical rule, say ridiculous things, and then destroy their credibility. Too many believers say they are de facto (and sometimes even de jure) 'Spirit-led' so they 'can't' be wrong. Yahweh is not a Calvinist guaranteeing you are perpetually inspirated, let alone your salvation. Believers make mistakes all the time. Sorry, you're going to have to work a lot harder to know the emet (truth) and not solely rely on diverse 'impressions'.

    Not an Atlas or Science Textbook

    Once you understand that the details and facets of nearly all biblical cosmology are a literary/poetic device and not scientific ones, you can avoid all the pit-falls that flat-earthers and others like them make. And as far as theology is concerned, all the creation and cosmology passages have as their goal the glorification of the Creator's powers and are not descriptions of the mathematics or mechanics of Creation. You can no more map earth or the solar system using what is in the Scriptures than Percy Collet could draw a map of Heaven. Indeed, you'll have a huge problem mapping Heaven or the New Jersualem from the Scriptures because the type of Biblical literature that describe them is symbolic and poetic. It's not meant to be read like an Atlas or a Science Textbook.

    Stars Falling Out of the Sky

    I want to take just one example from our critic's List today as this will otherwise end up as a book which I don't have time to write currently. In Category #4 the critic believes that "the stars shall [literally] fall to Earth", implying that these fixed objects will come tumbling down off the solid, vaulted dome above us and crash onto the surface of the planet. The source is Yah'shua (Jesus) who said:

      "Immediately after the distress (tribulation) of those days 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken'" (Matt.24:29, NIV; cp. Mk.13:25 - see Is.13:10; Ezek.32:7; Joel 2:10; 3:4,15; Is.34:4; Hag.2:6,21).

    A Flat-Earther Visualises the Great Stellar Drop

    It is not hard to visualise how a flat-earther, who believes in a solid dome in which the sun, moon, planets and stars are 'fixed' like jewelly on the surface of a crown, might visualise how all of this would take place. The sun and moon are supernaturally 'switched off' like light bulbs and go dark, and suddenly the stars start dropping like autumn leaves to the ground, or perhaps onto their circular Antarctic ice rim, or into a trench somewhere (I am sure they visualise this in all sort of imaginative ways).

    Moslem Fairy Tales

    The Moslems believe the sun sets each evening in a muddy pool of water though no Moslem has ever been able to locate it. Maybe they should send their jihadists off to find it instead of killing people. Moslem literature, like the Quran and the Haddiths, are exceedingly literal, so when their prophet said he flew to Jerusalem on a winged donkey, or that certain categories of Moslem are turned into green birds in their imaginary Paradise, no Moslem ever views these things symbolically or poetically. They really believe he winged it over the desert on a flying donkey.

    Symbolic Cannibalism

    The Bible, on the other hand, is one of the most symbolic religious books in existence, and has accordingly been misread again and again because its students don't understand its literary genres. Literalists get disturbed by it as did certain Jews who thought Yah'shua (Jesus) was promoting cannibalism when He told His talmidim (disciples) that they would have to "eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood" (John 6:53, NIV) to continue with Him. It seems even the ancients didn't always understand.

    The 'Falling Stars' Literary Device and Heylel's Fall

    Fortunately, the "falling stars" (not 'shooting stars' or meteorites) literary device is a well known one and when that imagery was used in the New Testament, listeners and readers alike knew exactly what was meant. Where the limited context plainly is not astronomical, stars are mainly connected with the light Messiah brings, malakim (angels) and leadership, and falling stars with the 'fall', deposing or removal of unrighteous leaders. Everyone knew what Isaiah meant when he employed the common literary device of a star falling out of heaven:

      "How you have fallen from heaven,
      O [Heylel/Day Star/Lucifer/Satan], son of the dawn!
      You have been cast down to the earth,
      you who once laid low the nations!
      (Isa.14:12, NIV).

    Later on, this same navi (prophet) would write:

      "the stars of the heavens will be dissolved
      and the sky rolled up like a scroll;
      all the starry host will fall
      like withered leaves from the vine,
      like shriveled figs from the fig tree
      (Isa.34:4, NIV).

    Yah'shua's Use of Fig Tree Imagery

    Later on, Yah'shua (Jesus) would use the same imagery when he cursed the fig tree, a living parable and prophecy of what would happen to those, like the soon-to-be dismissed Old Covenant Israel, who refused to bring forth spiritual fruits, showing how the imagery concerns people (Mk.11:20-21 and surrounding verses; also see the Parable of the Fig Tree in Lk.13:6-8).

    Another Star Falls From the Sky

    One of these 'stars' is later identified as a person in a prophecy given to the apostle John:

      "The fifth malak (angel) sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss" (Rev.9:1, NIV).

    Supernatural Beings as Stars

    Many supernatural beings are called "stars" in Scripture, including Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself (Rev.22:16) who is the brightest of them, and malakim (angels), and we, the qadoshim (saints, set-apart ones) are given this "star" if we obey His will and are victorious over the flesh and our enemies (Rev.2:26-28).

    Cosmic Authorities

    By allowing Scripture interpret itself it soon becomes obvious that sun, moon and stars all refer to cosmic authorities and powers, good and evil. So when sun and moon go dark, and stars fall out of the sky, this is a well-known ancient Middle Eastern literary device, used by the Hebrews, to describe light and truth being cut off from the earth because of apostacy and of the rulers of this world 'falling', or being cast out, from their thrones of authority. It's such a well known literary device that all but flat-earthers and one or two others ignore it when they want to employ a scripture to prop up a preconceived doctrine.

    Literal Cosmology Passages

    Now obviously some passages are to be taken literally as the context plainly tells us so:

      "But the day of Yahweh will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare" (2 Peter 3:10, NIV).

    Replacing the Old Heaven and Earth

    Heavenly bodies - sun, moon and stars - are not spoken of there because this passage is describing the final transformation of the whole cosmos at the end of the Millennium when everything is transformed, both in the heavenlies and on earth. One supposes, by examining other Final Judgment Day passages, that this applies equally to the invisible as to the visible. This, then, is a different category of scripture to the purely symbolic ones we have looked at. (I should also point out that "heavens" can also just refer to the physical sky and that is its primary meaning).

    How the Blood-Red Moon Error Was Perpetrated

    The huge errors that have been entertained this last year or two concerning 'blood-red moons' stems from the same kind of sloppy exegesis that moderns seem to be prone to. The 'blood-red mooners' are fond of quoting Joel 2:31 which poses some interesting questions because this is almost certainly literal in the primary sense:

      "The sun will be turned to darkness
      and the moon to blood
      before the coming of the great and dreadful day of Yahweh"
      (Joel 2:31, NIV).

    A Better Explanation

    The error of the blood-red mooners is that they separate the blood moons from the sun going dark for none of the blood-red moon 'special days' that have come to pass, which they make such a fuss over (saying they are of great prophetic significance) have been accompanied by the sun being darkened. Not one. They, of course, ignore the context because the 'fad' (end-time prophecy) clouds their judgment. Yes, this is an important end-time prophecy but it has nothing to do with lunar eclipses. Rather, it is a single (not multiple) event and ignores what other Scriptures have to say on the same or similar subjects, including Joel himself:

      "Blood and fire and pillars of smoke" (Joel 2:30, NKJV).

    A Rounded Data-Fit

    Here Scripture gives a likely explanation as to how the sun is darkened and why the moon turns red: smoke caused by fire...and you can speculate, if you want to, as to what causes the fire, whether some natural disaster like multiple volcanic eruptions all around the earth, nuclear war, or whatever.

    When the Stars Fall in Flat-Earthland...

    So, no, miniature stars (because flat-earthers don't believe they are very big, just a few miles in diameter, like the sun which is a bit bigger) aren't going to detatch from any solid dome and go bouncing all over the earth. One such object would cause immeasurable damage...but thousands, tens of thousands, millions or billions of balls of fire? The earth would be pulverised! And these big balls sliding down the inside the dome and landing on the Outer Rim which is Flat-Earther Antarctica - the big wall of ice supposedly surrounding the earth - would not do the earth much better as they would melt all the ice and flood the disk. Then what would happen to the oceans? They'd go over the edge of the world or whatever, leaving the oceans dry. The proponents of silly ideas like this don't obviously know much physics.

    Reality - the Amundsen-Scott Station at the South Pole

    An Important Subject

    So, yes, I do absolutely do question the literal interpretations given by the critic in the summaries of the seven categories. They don't bear serious in-depth investigation either scripturally or scientifically. We have looked at one example today and maybe we will look at some others if the need arises later but for now I want to return to the overall picture - the big context. I am prepared to do so for the sake of those caught up in this myth, out of love for them, if they are really interested in learning to view Scripture in the way it was intended, because I do think this is a very important subject.

    Credibility and Salvation at Stake

    Like I said, the credibility and reliability of our Besorah (Gospel) witness is most definitely affected by the flat-earth doctrine. Is it a matter of salvation? If it means that the person to whom we are witnessing rejects the Besorah (Gospel) does so because of a believer's pseudo-science then, yes, it is a matter of salvation. We live in a scientific world and cannot ignore science. It's a part of who we are, believer and unbeliever alike. The aviators' saying, 'If it doesn't look right, it probably isn't', seems to fit the bill rather well here.

    When the Arguments Get Visceral

    I am sometimes accused of being insulting to people's intelligence or ability to do serious research work when I call out their bad science. I am all for seeking emet (truth) - it's a rare quality these days - but as an educator it is my duty to hold fellow believers up to the high standards demanded of integrity. Flat-earth 'science', if it can really be called that, has only been around for a few years, whereas round-earth science has been 'at it' for centuries and has amassed an impressive body of information which can't be ignored and has to be answered. Consistently, I have noticed how flat-earthers evade even the most basic science which flatly (pardon the pun) contradicts them. To be taken seriously, they have to take the whole corpus of knowledge on this subject before they start drawing hasty conclusions, many of which ride on the emotionalism of conspiracy hysteria, making them unamenable to calm, rational discussion. Which is why I didn't find the 'preachy bits' at the end of the seven summaries very helpful, since the implication was that arguments by the likes of myself must be 'worldly' because they are challenging a list of inspired Scriptures. It was, in some respects, a pre-judgment.

    Is Searching for Truth 'Worldly'?

    Am I trusting in man rather than in Yahweh in letting Scripture interpret itself and by taking the time to study historical and literary context? How can understanding the world-view of the ancient nevi'im (prophets) be 'worldly'? Dealing with scientific fact and reality is not 'worldly' but surely commendable.

    Tough Ones for Purists

    All of us have cultural contexts, inevitably, inspired as well as uninspired. Joseph of Egypt had his divination cup, which he hid in one of the sacks of his brethren, which baffles purists who cannot compute how a godly man could be involved in the occult. Jacob used magic rods to ensure he multiplied his uncle's herds to his advantage. Am I justifying magic and the occult? Of course not, but that was their world view, and Yahweh's hostility to these things had not yet been revealed or restored through Moses in the Torah.

    Superstitions Amongst Believers

    Superstitions, some of them definitely of an occult nature, exist amongst Christians and Messianics alike. Why do Baptist churches always have their pianos on the left side of their churches? Why do so many Christian ministers wear dog-collars and Messianics tallit, neither of which are biblical? Why do so many Messianic Jews use occult candle rituals on the Sabbath? Had Jacob and Joseph known better, I guarantee they would have ditched their occultism, just as honest Christians and Messianics are ditching their dog collars, tallit's and occult rituals.

    Changes in Language

    Language in particular changes so that translating it literally can have no meaning at all. Someone three millennia ago hearing an American parent scream at a persistently disobedient and destructive child, 'I'm going to kill you!' would likely take it literally, or hearing someone say, 'That's cool!' would conclude it isn't hot or luke-warm. We have to understand these things to make sense of any ancient record. The meaning of language lies beyond individual words.

    Unintimidated by Pop Theology

    Those who know me understand that I long ago ceased being intimidated by Jehovah's Witness-like pop theology. Little volumes of compiled scriptures under various sub-headings [6], collated for witnessing, which held me in awe when I was finding my first theological feet as a young seeker with little knowledge of the Bible world, or similar theological candy offered by other cults like the Mormons, do not impress me any longer. Believers of all doctrinal and ecclesiastical stripes have made similar compilations over the ages and come to very different conclusions as to their interpretation. You can't just sew them together and expect to get a clear picture. You have to see the whole picture in order to reconstruct the original mosaic, as I discussed yesterday.

    A Radically Different Cognitive Framework

    If there is one thing I have noted in flat-earth exegesis, it is this: there is little by way of any system, whether scientific or theological. I guess this is where my training as a System's Analyst has come in helpful. Scriptural ping-pong establishes little until there is proper historical, cultural and linguistic context. We have to understand, if we are to make sense of biblical cosmology, that anciently there was an entirely different cognitive framework to the one we have today [7]. The passages that we love to cite about cosmology were produced by men who lived in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean between the second millennium BC and the first century AD:

      "To understand how biblical writers thought, we need to tap into the intellectual output of that world. A vast amount of that information is available to us, thanks to modern technology. As our understanding of the worldview of the biblical writers grows, so does our understanding of what they intended to say - and the mosaic of their thinking takes shape in our minds" [8].

    How the Ancient Writers Pictured the Earth

    Let me illustrate what I mean. Talking all the Scriptures literally that my critic has cited in favour of a flat-earth, various people have attempted reconstructions of the earth as drawings, which all pretty much agree with one another:

    The Antarctic Problem

    One thing you will notice in the older drawings derived from the Bible is that Antarctica is absent because it is neither mentioned in Scripture nor had it been discovered - at least not in Europe - though we know from an ancient Turkish map, which belonged to Admiral Piri Reis (1465-1554), not only that Antarctica was a continent but that the earth was a globe and all before modern notions of conspiracy were developped to supposedly 'hide' the fact that the earth was flat. The example below is of the same map republished later in Europe and tidied up by Philippe Buache in 1737/9 based on the most recent cartographical expeditions of the time:

    Admiral Byrd's Expeditions

    Modern flat-earthers include Antarctica and make it the 'edge' of the supposed disk and have invented tales as to how impossible it is to get anywhere near Antarctica today because those conspirators 'in the know' don't want anyone to find out it's really just an outer ring of ice and not a continent as that would 'give the game away'. What is all the more remarkable to me is how anybody could believe in such drivel given all that we now know about this continent. It has been explored by so many, photographed from space, etc.. But there you are. Now I don't doubt that Antarctic has it's 'mysteries'. The Admiral Byrd expeditions, with its big UFO encounter on the one in which he was supposed to mop up any stray nazis after the Second World War ended, springs to mind. But then there are plenty of mysteries all over the world that do not need the invocation of a flat-earth to explain.

    (This is a composite before any flat-earther accuses me of posting a fake.
    It consists of sections taken during daylight hours, hence no dark half)

    Half-Way House Views of Round and Flat Earth

    Piri Reis's map is astonishing as it does not at all fit what we think we know about the 1500's. This has led to endless speculation as to how his cartography was so advanced of anything else of his time, including 'alien' (nephilim) technology, etc.. Elsewhere the prevailing view was a combination of flat and round earth. What follows is a 15th century artistís impression of a flat earth which assumed only part of the globe was accessible to humans because the torrid climate around the equator could not be transversed by life. This view attempted to combine a stylistic perception of a flat earth with the widespread knowledge, even in those days, that the earth was, in fact, a round globe. Notice the absence of the Arctic.

    The Flat Earth and Shunamite Woman Compared

    Let's go back now to the diagrammatic reconstruction of the earth based on a literalistic interpretation of Bible cosmology. In spite of sophisticated attempts by the New Flat-Earthers to 'modernise' this diagram using such scientific knowledge as is convenient to lend credit to their paradigm, it is still, scientifically-speaking, utterly ridiculous. But then so would an attempt at diagrammatically reconstructing the Shunamite woman of the Song of Solomon in the Tanakh (Old Testament). If you do so, taking a literalistic approach, you end up with bizzare and amusing results, as this artist's conception shows:

    Different Metaphors for a Different Age

    We don't describe beautiful women using such metaphors today and even in our modern poetry we don't describe the cosmos in the same way that the ancient did because we have so much more scientific knowledge and view the world very differently indeed. Yet the way the earth and the Shunamite woman are portrayed in Scripture does not validate the claim that the Bible is uninspired because the ancients focussed more on energy as we focus more on form. Remember, Hebrew nouns express movement, or have root words that express it. You just have to be sure you correctly identify the category of literature being used to make sense of it. They weren't trying to portray the world of a particularly lovely woman in the same way that a modern inspired author might.

    Radically Different Perceptions

    The times have changed, man has moved on. Accordingly it is very hard for moderns to understand how the ancients saw or visualised the things they knew so little about because what they saw was motion and energy. Today we are framed by a radically different world-view and a millennium or two down the line we too will be regarded as 'ancient' and 'limited' in our understanding. To understand biblical cosmology you have to understand the ancient world's moorings otherwise what you end up with is a ridiculous cariacature. And that's exactly what flat-earthism is in spite of the modern coating of 'science' impossibly forced into it. Some things just can't be drawn, they have to be experienced.

    A Different Kind of Thinking

    The kind of scientific rationalism we have grown up with today was unknown by Moses and other writers. Their thinking was much more emotional and abstract, but no less real or true. It had to be as that's where humanity was in its development. We are not given the luxury of rendering millennia-old concepts the way we want by slightly rearranging them to make them fit what both flat-earthers and round-earthers both agree is reality at ground level (or at least as high as commercial airliners go). We can't rearrange the Biblical data to make it comfortable to us which is why I insist that literalists adhere to the model as it is actually portrayed in the Scriptures:

    An Apology to Flat-Earthers

    And I'm sorry, flat-earthers, but physical reality just isn't what you have deluded yourselves into thinking it is. You do yourselves, and the Besorah (Gospel), a disservice by trying to view the ancient world with modern lenses that just can't work. It's like trying to wear someone else's eye-glasses. Study university-level astro-physics and maths, and it won't take you very long to discover what that reality has to be, and is. It is better you do that, instead of gullibly swallowing all the pop science and making Christianity look ridiculous to those unbelievers who have a better grasp of the outer world than you seem to. You may be a stumbling-block to those precious souls receiving the Besorah (Gospel) of Salvation.

    A Giant Con

    As you better come to understand the historical and cultural matrix that was recorded in our ancient scriptures, and get to do some systematic science, you will see that the whole flat-earth business is an giant con. You deserve better. And try not to be offended, or act like what they now call a 'snowflake', because there is nothing wrong with putting all the data on the table and examining it. Being wrong is not character assassination. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Contrary to what I am accused of by some flat-earthers, I did spend hundreds of hours pouring over the data they believe to be truth. Ask my family, they will remember how I was struggling at one point, because some of the flat-earth YouTube presentations are very slick, yet misleading.

    NASA and All That Sort of Thing

    If I could prove, for fun, to a Greek Cypriot friend of mine who was studying Mathematics at Oxford University, that a circle was a square, then you can be quite sure extant data can be manipulated to make fantasy appear to be reality. I don't know who uploaded those original YouTube videos but I now believe they were deceivers who aren't interested in emet (truth). They're serving the same Illuminati dark agenda to make black look white, and truth look like lies. They want believers to look idiots when the time comes to 'rid' society of them. I have studied it out, in depth, including looking at all the NASA information available online. There's fake material for sure (fake pictures on the moon's surface, fake shots from the Apollo space craft, composite maps of the earth from orbit that don't 'fit' properly, etc.) there but there are other logical explanations for that behaviour that do not require inventing a massive flat-earth cover-up...which wouldn't even be realistically possible, incidentally.

    Conclusion

    I'll end this study with the remarks of someone who has been following this discussion and leave it at that for the present:

      "Just because I haven't come up with the same answers [as flat-earthers] doesn't mean I haven't studied it. I admit I haven't given it as much attention as the calendar, but then in my opinion, the function of the luni-solar calendar goes part way [in] dispelling flat-earth. Christopher shared some good images a couple of days ago showing why we all see the moon and sun as the same size regardless of location. Flat-earth doesn't explain this. In fact, it becomes anti-logic, proposing something entirely non-existent" [9]

    May Yahweh bless you in your studies.

    Also see The Plecostomus Affair: A Revelation on Feeding the Mind

    Endnotes

    [1] Jerry Bergman, The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism
    [2] Matt J. Rossano, How the Myth of the Flat-Earth Dogma Started the Religion-Science War
    [3] Jeffrey Burton Russell, Who Invented the Flat Earth?
    [4] From a Facebook post, 15 December 2016
    859 James Kennison,Bible Stuff: A Text Without a Context Is a Pretext
    [6] Make Sure of All Things, Hold Fast to What is Fine (Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, NY: 1965); Reasoning From the Scriptures (WBTS, NY: 1985)
    [7] I am not, of course, saying that we need the kind of scholarship to properly understand the simple message of salvation as we do to understand ancient cosmology, as these are two separate things - Yahweh did not cause the Bible to come into being to give us a revelation of science but as a revelation of salvation.
    [8] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (Lexham Press, Bellingham, WA: 2015), p.16
    [9] Sarah Pomeroy, Messianic Evangelical Facebook Group, 16 December 2016

    Recommended Reading

    [1] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (Lexham Press, Bellingham, WA: 2015)
    [2] Michael J. Gorman, Elements of Biblical Exegesis: A Basic Guide For Students and Ministers (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts: 2001) - Warning! This is university level and very technical

    Comments From Readers

    [1] "Thank you Christopher for the very well-written article on 'Flat Earth'. There is much to think about. YHWH bless you!" (UG, Sweden, 17 December 2016)

    [2] "Flat earth aside...irrelevant of peoples pov's...all I got from this is that unless you are an educated person, there is no hope in hell that you'll ever understand the scriptures...didn't realise it took a PhD to get into Heaven... Don't even know why I'm even bothering with this crap...I've obviously set the bar way too high. Took me an hour to read this and according to what I've read, I've no clue in what I thought I understood about the scriptures. Am starting to think the club might be a little too exclusive for my lack of education. Apparently believing in Jesus' sacrifice or keeping the commandments or Sabbath or feasts isn't quite enough. I kinda think I'm done with it. Needing more than 1 Bible. Geez. I'm flat out reading the Bible I got. Only Bible I've ever read was a kid's one. Obviously that doesn't cut the mustard in the big kids' sandpit. I think I'll take my inadequate kids' bible and KJV and my thoughts of who YHWH and His son are and go be by myself again. If it's this hard to get into Heaven that I need to read a few Bibles a certain schooled way, I think I'll just give the whole thing a miss. I thought repenting and asking Yeshua to forgive/help me stop sinning was hard. And I thought believing in a flat earth was the beginning of my problems. Literally feeling gutted at how inappropriate I'm feeling right now. There's apparently not much hope for the likes of me it seems. Part of me feels like giving up on the whole lot now and yet part of me is screaming that surely it cant be such a complicated process to understand the scriptures. Surely YHWH doesn't expect us to have a university degree in order to gain truths from His word. I actually feel sick right now. I'm not sure I even want to be part of this exclusive club if understanding the scriptures takes such an academic effort. Surely YHWH isn't that demanding...if He is...well, I don't know why I'm even bothering. No more annoying comments. I don't belong here" (EL, USA, 17 December 2016).

    Author's reply: I'm sorry I didn't make it clear enough for you to come to the wrong conclusions about my article. I did try to make a clear distinction between SCIENCE and SALVATION. My belief has always been that anyone can be saved using practically any translation, including your KJV and 'Kid's Bible'. But if you want to know how the ancients thought cosmologically and not end up in flatland, then, yes, unfortunately, you need to do some solid scholarly research. So you have misunderstood my drift - the article wasn't about salvation at all, only about flat-earth, and how some unbelievers might be put off the salvation message by someone who believes in the flat-earth, making it a salvational issue for the unbeliever who has some scientific knowledge. So your KJV and children's bible will do just fine for salvation, festivals, sabbaths, etc.!

    [3] "Hey EL! I'm sorry you are feeling so overwelmed at the moment. It would be wrong (and very sad) to believe Father YHWH only used the educated. If anything, YHWH can (and has) shown Himself powerfully through those who were uneducated but were passionately loving and seeking to honour YHSH (Jesus) through walking in the Ruach (Spirit):

      "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with YHSH (Jesus)" (Acts 4:13)

    Father YHWH Himself told us He was granting us the saving knowledge we need, and that we didn't need huge education, or educated people to bring knowledge that was 'far away' from us, in order to be saved and to be blessed and multiplied in Him:

      "For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. 15 See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and Yahweh your Elohim (God) will bless you in the land which you go to possess." (Deuteronomy 30:11-16)

    and through Paul, He confirmed:

      "But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, 'Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'' (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, 'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Master Yah'shua (Jesus) and believe in your heart that Elohim (God) has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:6-9)

    He saves and makes us all one Body through this simple gospel, so all the glory belongs to Him (and not any man's mind).

    As the Ruach (Spirit) told us through Paul, Father YHWH has given us different strengths and giftings, both spiritually and through the opportunities He has granted. As a Body, we are meant to build each other up through these giftings Father YHWH's given us:

      "3 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim (God), to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph.4:13).

    For

      "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up [together, as the Body] in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole Body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (Eph4:15-16).

    Education is one example of those gifts. Its a grace YHWH has granted some parts of the Body, not so they would be proud (or believe the lie that they are 'better' than others), but so they can bless the Body of Messiah (Christ) and reach out to others in the Ruach (Spirit). Paul was an example of a believer who YHWH had gifted with great education, with the purpose that he could reach out and reason with others who had been educated (like some of the Jewish teachers in the synagogues, or the educated philosophers who made a habit to debate in Athens, mentioned in Acts 17:16-34).

    As believers, we are also meant to have each others backs against the enemy who wants to deceive and destroy us.

      "3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in Elohim (God) for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Elohim (God), bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled" (2 Cor.10:3-6).

      "17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Master and Deliverer Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)" (2 Pet.3:17-18).

    That means the believer YHWH has allowed to be more educated has a responsibility (in humility and love) towards the rest of the Body to speak up and reason in truth if they see false arguments that might lead brothers and sisters astray (Romans 15:1-3) .

    So does Father YHWH require us to be very educated to be saved by Him, know Him and be blessed by Him? Not at all! Nor does He expect all of us to be great debaters or philosophers. (Again, that is a gift He has granted some, for a purpose.) He has however called all us in the Body to grow in knowledge of the Truth, and to bear good fruit:

      "5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins" (2 Pet.1:5-9).

    (Spoken through Peter, one of the men of Acts 4:13 who was seen not to be greatly educated.)

      "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), to the glory and praise of Elohim (God)" (Phil.1:9-11).

      "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of Elohim (God); 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Col.1:9-14).

    I hope this helps! I know how it feels to feel overwhelmed and unsure how to know what is true and not. Its a terrible feeling! In the end, the most important is coming back to the gospel, and holding on to the things we know are true and solid, even while we are learning to discern and figure out the rest. That's where our anchor is! May Father YHWH fill you with His peace and joy, and use you greatly to His glory!"
    (DP, South Africa, 17 December 2016)

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