Reading the Bible Plain and Simple

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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Thank you for a great article. It is very valuable when someone can compassionately put themselves back in their previous worldview and show some of the reasons and purposes for their change of mind, rather than just outright condemning the old view.

I especially like this quote:

Though I am not yet convinced of an evolutionary paradigm, I feel perfectly free to explore it and consider it without fear, because if I find it to be true, it will not threaten my faith.

I’m also not sure whether I accept all of the “evolutionary paradigm” at this time or not – but I have been so glad to be free of the fear that used to keep me away from honestly learning about it. I used to be so afraid of evolution that I was careful to only take the required science classes in college that seemed like they’d be least likely to teach evolution, regardless of where my actual interests lay (actually, I was afraid of having to skip questions on a test because I didn’t want to lie). It is refreshing to view science with a more open posture and actually get excited about what kinds of new things I might learn.


This is my favorite couple of paragraphs!

“In order to understand the text through the eyes of the original readers, I had to learn to read it not literally but literarily because it is literature of their time and culture, not mine… . . . The goal of proper biblical hermeneutics (interpreting the Bible) is to understand the text through the eyes of its original writers and readers. If we are to believe that “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth,” we must believe what God means by that proposition within their cultural context, not what it means to us within our cultural context.”

“As a Western Christian addressing the varying interpretations of the Bible I had been claiming, “I just believe what the Bible says, plain and simple.” But I eventually came to discover that this hermeneutic is actually an egregious usurpation of God’s Word[:]”

o - It was plain and simple to the ancient Near Eastern mind that the naming of things exerts covenantal authority over them (Gen. 2:19).
o - It is plain and simple to my modern mind that names are merely taxonomic references for things.

o - It was plain and simple to the ancient Near Eastern mind that creation accounts are about deity giving order, purpose and function to the world.
o - It is plain and simple to my modern mind that a creation account should be about how material substance came into existence. Plain and simple is not so plain or simple after all.

As I researched further, I had to be honest and admit that the Scriptures do in fact contain common ancient Near Eastern cosmological notions that do not comport with modern scientific paradigms:

o - “earth” as an immovable (Psa. 104:5) [object, not a constantly moving continent]

o - [“earth” as a] flat circular disk of land (Isa. 40:22)

o - [“earth” is] on foundational pillars (2 Sam. 2:8)

o - [“earth” is] surrounded by a circle of water (Prov. 8:27)

o - [ “the water” ] goes to the edge of a solid dome sky (Job 37:18, 22:14)

o - [“the solid sky”] holds back waters above (Psa. 104:2, 148:8)

o - [ “the solid sky” has ] floodgates to release rain (Gen. 7:11)

o - with God’s throne above those waters (Psa. 104:2),

o - and all in a three-tiered universe of heavens, earth and underworld (Phil. 2:10).

“And this model isn’t just vaguely referenced in a couple of obscure passages, it is woven through the entire text of both Old and New Testaments! It is not that the Bible teaches this model as absolute reality, but rather that the writers assumed the model in their understanding, and God chose not to “correct” their view.”

@Reggie_O_Donoghue, just some fun-reading…

  1. true

  2. true

  3. It’s hard to know what these pillars really are, I can find no mention of pillars holding up the earth in other ANE texts. Job 26:7 seems to imply that it is the power of God which holds up the earth and prevents it from falling into the abyss.

  4. true.

  5. the sky was probably conceived of as a flat disc or platform made of Lapis Lazuli, either that or made of liquid water, (I lean towards the former) both of which would have coloured the sky blue. The Babylonians also conceived of the sky in both ways, but never as a dome.

  6. Again, either the waters above may have been a floating body of water, but I lean towards the suggestion that they were clouds, due to the parallelism between day 2 and day 4, and because people in the ANE were not entirely unaware that clouds were water vapour.

  7. Like with the pillars, until I see unambiguous references to gates in the sky letting out water outside the Bible, I can’t comment.

  8. Apparently yes, whatever these waters were.

  9. I guess so, but again I can’t find any non-biblical references to such a thing. At least one Ancient people, the Babylonians, believed in a seven tiered universe.

Reggie, we’ve been through this:

Clouds are white, not blue.
Vapor is not “water”.
Vapor is “mist”.

  1. Where does the Bible say they were blue?
  2. According to the Enuma Elish, clouds were formed from Tiamat’s saliva. They apparently knew clouds originated from a liquid substance.

One of the reasons the ancients thought that there was a cosmic ocean about the sky is because the sky is blue…just like the ocean. Modern flat-earth Christians believe the same thing, interestingly:

Ancients knew the basics of how clouds worked, and they believed in a solid sky and cosmic ocean. All of these things can be true at the same time.

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They didn’t always believe in a cosmic ocean. Even Paul Seely admits that there is meagre evidence for this.

Interested…tell me more. What’s the evolution of this belief?

No I meant that not everyone in the ancient world believed it.

But if it must be said, then likely a liquid sky probably was the original Semitic view, since the Semitic word for sky almost always means something akin to ‘upper waters’. They clearly weren’t dogmatic about this in later periods, standard Babylonian cosmology describes three levels of heaven (though the atmosphere was also considered to be part of heaven) made of gemstones, with no reference to any water.


I think we can safely say the Egyptians did believe in a cosmic ocean. After all, we have these carefully built boats associated with elite burials.

There is no telling what the Sumerians, Babylonians or Hebrew thought about the navigatability of the heavenly waters.
But we don’t need a fresh water stored “as an ocean” to see the Hebrew belief that water had to be stored above to explain the ultimate source of rain.

Gen 7:11
In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

Gen 8:2
The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained;

2Ki 7:1-2
Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD, To morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria. Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.

2Ki 7:19
And that lord answered the man of God, and said, Now, behold, if the LORD should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.

Mal 3:10
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

  1. How does the Egyptian burial boat prove this? The Duat was below the earth, not above it.

  2. I see no reason why the windows of heaven cannot be figurative.


Do you have a single Egyptian depiction of the deceased sailing a boat in the underworld?

Yes, technically, they could be figurative. But throughout the Old and New Testament, the role that the stars play in releasing rain (without any significant connection to clouds, except as receptacles for the water) makes it rather difficult for the “waters of heaven” to be figurative as well.

Do you have a single Egyptian depiction of the deceased sailing a boat in the sky?

I don’t believe “deceased” is as relevant to sailing the solar barge (and other boats) in the sky.

So, I would ask you, @Reggie_O_Donoghue, do you really think all of these renderings are of
boats on terrestrial water, or underground? Even the one with the stars all around it ?

The Milky Way was considered to be a celestial river. (Of milk however, not water)


I can only imagine that you are jesting… but I fear you are not. Based on your own view, nobody could ride a solar bark in a river of milk the size of the sky?

Below - Actual data on Ancient Views of the Milky Way

The closest we get to real “millk”:
“The Ancient Greek γαλαξίας (galaxias) – from root γαλακτ-, γάλα (“milk”) + -ίας (forming adjectives) – is also the root of “galaxy”, the name for our, and later all such, collections of stars. In Greek mythology it was supposedly made from the forceful suckling of Heracles, when Hera acted as a wet nurse for the hero. The Milky Way, or “milk circle”, was just one of 11 “circles” the Greeks identified in the sky, others being the zodiac, the meridian, the horizon, the equator, the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, Arctic and Antarctic circles, and two colour circles passing through both poles.”

"In western culture the name “Milky Way” is derived from its appearance as a dim un-resolved “milky” glowing band arching across the night sky. The term is a translation of the Classical Latin via lactea, in turn derived from the Hellenistic Greek γαλαξίας, short for γαλαξίας κύκλος (galaxías kýklos, “milky circle”)."

ANE View of the Milky Way
"In Babylonia, the Milky Way was said to be the tail of Tiamat, set in the sky by Marduk after he had slain the salt water goddess. It is believed this account, from the Enuma Elish had Marduk replace an earlier Sumerian story when Enlil of Nippur had slain the goddess."

Aristotle’s View
In Meteorologica (DK 59 A80), Aristotle (384–322 BC) wrote that the Greek philosophers Anaxagoras (c. 500–428 BC) and Democritus (460–370 BC) proposed that the Milky Way might consist of distant stars.[192] However, Aristotle himself believed the Milky Way to be caused by “the ignition of the fiery exhalation of some stars which were large, numerous and close together”[193] and that the “ignition takes place in the upper part of the atmosphere, in the region of the world which is continuous with the heavenly motions.”[194][195]

Was the Milky Way Closer than the Moon or Not
"The Neoplatonist philosopher Olympiodorus the Younger (c. 495–570 A.D.) criticized this view, arguing that if the Milky Way were sublunary, it should appear different at different times and places on Earth, and that it should have parallax, which it does not. In his view, the Milky Way is celestial. This idea would be influential later in the Islamic world.[196]"

Even if they did believe there was water, the parallelism between day 2 and day 5, just as there is parallelism between day 1 and day 4 and between day 3 and day 6 suggests that birds fly either in the waters above, (implying they are clouds), in the firmament (which the text appears to say), or both.

And by the way, since you like to quote Wikipedia so much:

In Egyptian mythology, the Milky Way was considered a pool of cow’s milk. The Milky Way was deified as a fertility cow-goddess by the name of Bat (later on syncretized with the sky goddess Hathor).

Hathor, along with the goddess Nut, was associated with the Milky Way during the third millennium B.C. when, during the fall and spring equinoxes, it aligned over and touched the earth where the sun rose and fell.[13] The four legs of the celestial cow represented Nut or Hathor could, in one account, be seen as the pillars on which the sky was supported with the stars on their bellies constituting the Milky Way on which the solar barque of Ra, representing the sun, sailed.[14]

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