I don't think you do understand your own the subject.

And what is the point of your e-mail? Is it a subject for a religion 
discussion? I do think you need more specific to describe the purposes. It is 
hard for people to join you especially for copy and paste material.

And secondly you do need the reference of the writer as well and then people 
might jump to a healthy discussion.
If you want to discuss about particular subject you do need to know when was it 
written. I don't know if you realize that there are tons of garbage material in 
the internet.


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Diskusian Aneka 
  To: zamanku@yahoogroups.com 
  Sent: Sunday, February 15, 2009 11:56 PM
  Subject: [zamanku] The Bible and Astronomy

        The Bible and Astronomy 
        by Hector Avalos

        Long before telescopes and sophisticated instruments, ancient peoples 
looked to the heavens for answers to the basic questions of life. From the very 
first verse, the Bible, the most influential collection of books in Western 
civilization, purports to provide answers to some of these questions, claiming 
that the Hebrew god created the heavens (Genesis 1:1) and that he made the 
Earth for human beings to inhabit (Isaiah 45:18). Heavenly luminaries were 
formed to provide light for Earth and markers for the seasons (Genesis 
1:14-16). The Earth was the center of the biblical universe. 
        The relationship between the Bible and modern astronomy has been very 
complicated and often turbulent. For most of the last two thousand years, any 
research on astronomy had to follow the biblical interpretation of the Church, 
as the case of Galileo in the seventeenth century illustrated. Accordingly, 
many scientists would argue that, for modern astronomy to be born, biblical 
cosmology had to die. 
        Galileo vs. Ptolemy (and the Church) 
        Galileo took one of the first steps leading toward the death of 
biblical cosmology by mounting a systematic challenge to the biblical notion 
that the Earth was the center of the universe. The centrality of Earth had long 
been associated with the cosmologies of Aristotle and Ptolemy that had been 
adopted as the official teaching of the Church. These cosmologists held that an 
immovable Earth was orbited by concentric spheres in which the various planets 
and stars were embedded. A complex series of circular motions by each sphere 
and the associated celestial bodies was purported to account for all observable 
heavenly motions, including the apparent retrograde motion of some planets. The 
heavenly bodies, such as the Moon and Sun, were perfectly homogeneous in their 
composition and structure. 
        In contrast, Galileo sought to confirm the theory, most forcefully 
presented in the sixteenth century by the Polish astronomer Copernicus in his 
De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, that the Sun was the center of the 
universe.. As Alexander Koyr, William Shea, and other historians of science 
have noted, most of Galileo's arguments were no better empirically than those 
of Ptolemy, and definitive confirmation of the Copernican system was found long 
after Galileo's death. 
        Galileo's certainty seems to have rested on the assumption that 
mathematical simplicity is a guide to truth. Even if two otherwise contrary 
systems could account for heavenly motions, the simpler mathematical model 
should be preferred. Galileo's faith in mathematical simplicity is evident in 
his famous Dialogo (after 1744 titled Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World 
Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican): 

        Who is going to believe that nature ... has chosen to make an immense 
number of very huge bodies move with incalculable speed, to achieve what could 
have been done by a moderate movement of one single body around its own center? 
        But even if Galileo's mathematically simple model did not constitute 
proof that the universe actually worked in this manner, Galileo announced other 
discoveries that cast doubt on Aristotelian- Ptolemaic cosmology. Such 
discoveries were facilitated by Galileo's innovative use of the telescope to 
explore the heavens beginning around 1609. Galileo showed, for example, that 
the Moon's surface has mountains and valleys, and is not perfectly smooth as 
Aristotle postulated; that the Sun has spots, not a homogeneous surface; and 
that Venus has phases, which would not be expected if Venus moved uniformly 
around the Earth. 
        The Church reacted against such challenges by placing Copernicus' De 
Revolutionibus on the index of prohibited books in 1616, 73 years after its 
publication and indicating that the Church saw no early threat by this 
"revolutionary" work. In 1633 Galileo was tried and found guilty of teaching 
the Copernican system. His sentence included imprisonment, which was commuted 
to house arrest at his home near Florence for the remaining years of his life. 
        Eventually, modern cosmology established the validity of the 
heliocentric theory. Moreover, modern cosmology showed that the sequence of 
cosmogonic events in Genesis 1, if interpreted literally, is not correct. Stars 
were formed on the fourth day of creation in Genesis 1:16, whereas modern 
astronomy has established that stars are still being formed today. Water on 
Earth exists before any other principal component in Genesis 1:1-3, whereas in 
modern cosmology our watery planet is a relatively late product. Even the need 
for a creator has been challenged. In his introduction to Steven Hawking's A 
Brief History of Time, Carl Sagan observed that Hawking outlines "a universe 
with no edge in space, no beginning or end in time, and nothing for a Creator 
to do." 
        In addition, developments in biblical scholarship, especially in the 
nineteenth century, undermined the idea of a unified biblical cosmology. Most 
modern biblical scholars identify at least two different creation stories in 
Genesis, one in Genesis 1:1-2:4a and another in Genesis 2:4b-2:25. Among a 
number of differences, the first story places the creation of all animals 
before the creation, on the sixth day, of man and woman together. The second 
creation story has a different sequence: the human male (Gen. 2:7), then all 
the animals (Gen. 2:19), and finally the human female (Gen. 2:21-22). 
        Biblical cosmology is preserved in some circles, most notably in the 
writings of Henry Morris, John Whitcomb, and other fundamentalist Christians 
known as "creationists. " Most creationists still uphold the basic sequences 
and chronology of Genesis 1, not Genesis 2, as the paradigmatic creation story 
even if they disagree on whether to interpret the length of the days literally, 
or as more prolonged periods of time. And, as a secular biblical scholar, I 
also see the continuing, and in my opinion misguided, attempts by some modern 
astronomers to harmonize astronomy and the Bible.. 
        A Primer in Biblical Cosmology(ies) 
        The most common view found in the biblical texts indicates that the 
Hebrews thought of a tri-partite universe (heaven, Earth, and underworld), with 
the sky as a sort of metallic dome. On the other side of the walls of this dome 
were the storehouses for rain and snow. Rain occurred, for example, when the 
doors or windows of these storehouses were opened by God as in Genesis 7:11-12. 
The edge of this dome, outlined by the horizon, rested on pillars or mountains 
which had roots extending deep into the Earth (see Job 26:11).. The Earth, 
which was declared to be immovable (Psalm 104:5), was a disk supported on 
water. Rivers were often seen as originating in this underground water. See 
Genesis 2:6 where "stream" rather than the "mist" of the King James Version is 
a better translation. 
        The Hebrew god and his divine retinue inhabited the heavens, although 
he also visited the Earth to see what human beings were doing (Genesis 11:5). 
The idea of persons living in heaven was an idea popularized by Christianity. 
However, the books attributed to a figure called Enoch reflect the existence of 
a vigorous pre-Christian Jewish literature which speaks of temporary visits and 
tours of the heavenly realms. These narratives are usually viewed as works of 
the imagination and theology by biblical scholars, but they have become 
evidence of space travel in antiquity for many UFO enthusiasts. 
        Astronomers' Misunderstandings 
        Many modern astronomers evince misunderstandings of biblical cosmology. 
For example, Robert Jastrow writes in God and the Astronomers: "The details 
differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of 
Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and 
sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy." 
        Another possibly misguided effort centers on providing scientific 
explanations for what may be purely literary phenomena. One case involves the 
Sun and Moon standing still in Joshua's battle at Gibeon (Joshua 10:12-13): 

        On the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, 
Joshua spoke to the Lord; and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand still 
at Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon." And the sun stood still, and 
the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not 
written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in midheaven, and did not hurry 
to set for about a whole day. 
        This command by Joshua is most probably a literary motif also found in 
many other battle accounts of the ancient Near East. Consider in the Iliad, the 
famous Greek epic of the early first millennium b.c.e., that Agamemnon, the 
king of the Greeks, requests Zeus grant that "the sun set not, neither darkness 
come upon us until I have cast down in headlong ruin the halls of Priam." 
        Astronomers have also sought to explain the Star of Bethlehem (Matthew 
2:2-10) without any apparent attention to possible literary motivations. For 
example, a recent article in Popular Mechanics reports that Ivor Bulmer Thomas 
has attempted to link the Star of Bethlehem with a conjunction of Jupiter and 
Saturn in May of 7 b.c.e., or a conjunction of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in 6 
b.c.e. Another astronomer argues on the basis of Chinese records, however, that 
a nova occurring in the spring of 5 b.c.e. may be a more probable explanation. 
        As is the case with references to eclipses, it is certainly possible 
that the author of Matthew was referring to an authentic astronomical event in 
a general sense - a conjunction of luminaries. It is also well known, however, 
that in the ancient world astronomical signs were associated, almost routinely 
and without much precision, with people favored by the authors. Attempting to 
provide scientific explanations for these literary motifs may be as misguided 
as providing scientific explanations for how Superman flies or which 
astronomical event corresponds to the explosion of the planet Krypton.. 
        Theologians' Misunderstandings 
        Perhaps more often than scientists who seek to correlate the Bible and 
science, religious commentators will attempt to harmonize new scientific 
discoveries with biblical references. After the formulation of the law of 
gravitation, a few conservative biblical commentators sought to explain 
"chains" and "cords" in the Job 38:31 passage, "Can you bind the chains of the 
Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion?" as reflecting biblical knowledge of 
gravitational bonds. The problem is that we really do not know that the 
relevant Hebrew words referred to those specific constellations, if any at all. 
"Cords" and "chains" may refer to some design that the ancients saw, like 
Orion's starry belt, rather than any theory of gravitation. 
        A similar situation obtains in Isaiah 40:22, which is sometimes cited 
to support the idea that biblical authors knew of the spherical shape of the 
Earth: "It is he who sits above the circle of the Earth, and its inhabitants 
are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and 
spreads them like a tent to live in." Some argue that knowledge of the Earth's 
sphericity is more than can be expected in ancient times, and that such 
knowledge must therefore be attributed to some supernatural source. However, 
the Hebrew word translated here as "the circle" most probably refers to the 
circle traced by the horizon and is not reference to the sphericity of the 
Earth at all. Languages related to Hebrew have the same word-root to refer to 
the horizon. Moreover, even if the Hebrew authors knew about the sphericity of 
the Earth, such knowledge would not require any supernatural explanation. After 
all, Eratosthenes of Alexandria, an
        ancient Greek mathematician active in the third century b.c.e., not 
only knew that the world was round but also used trigonometry to measure the 
size of its circumference to a respectable degree of accuracy. 
        Why Harmonize the Bible and Astronomy? 
        The motives for attempting to harmonize astronomy and the Bible are 
complex.. A common one is to unify ethical and scientific systems of "truth." 
The desire to validate the social and ethical policies of the Bible is clearly 
at the heart of some attempts to show that the Bible is reliable in all that it 
teaches. Protestant theologian Bernard Ramm provides and example of this line 
of reasoning in The Christian View of Science and Scripture: 

        The theological, the ethical, and the practical are so conjoined in the 
Bible with the statements about Nature or creation that it is impossible to 
separate them, and to impugn one is to impugn the other. 
        In other words, if the Bible cannot be trusted concerning its truth 
claims about the origin, structure, and purpose of the universe, how can it be 
trusted to provide reliable information about ethics? Any scientific 
disconfirmation of biblical cosmology will result in the devaluation of the 
biblical ethical system. 
        In general, for scientists who do not think that ethics should be built 
on a biblical foundation, the harmony of the Bible with astronomy is not 
        Across the Great Divide 
        Galileo was finally exonerated by Pope John Paul II in 1992, which is 
yet another signal that the literal biblical interpretation of the origin and 
structure of the universe has been largely overthrown. Yet biblical ideas have 
not disappeared completely. In their most vigorous form, they are still found 
in the writings of the so-called creationists. In a weakened form, they are 
still found in the work of some respected astronomers. Both forms seem to be 
motivated by the desire to preserve two important institutions, science and 
religion. It is often the case that such astronomers do not use the same degree 
of rigor and critical approach to the Bible that they might use in their own 
field, and the case is the same for many biblical commentators who seek to use 
astronomy to buttress religious claims. Astronomers and biblical scholars need 
to interact more than ever in order to avoid some basic misunderstandings of 
both the Bible and

        All biblical quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version, 
National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America, 
(Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1989). 
        This article is published with the permission of the author and adapted 
from his "Heavenly Conflicts: The Bible and Astronomy," which appeared in the 
March-April 1998 Mercury.??? 



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