I have often heard the quote “the Bible is not a science book” when people are talking about observations of God’s creation (a.k.a. General Revelation). While this is technically true I guess, there are many verses and passages that do deal directly with the universe, our solar system, and our planet. I think they become even more intriguing when I remember the Bible was written between 2000 and 3500 years ago and little was known about the universe and earth at that time.
Here are a number of verses and their scientific explanations which were compiled by my dad. Thanks dad!
There Was a Beginning
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. Nehemiah 9:6
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. Psalm 33:6
Prior to 1900 there were no observations, data, or scientific theories that supported Genesis 1:1. Most people who had not read or believed the Bible thought that the universe had always existed and that Genesis 1, 2, and 3 were a myth similar to other ancient creation myths. By the early 1900s scientific data and theory from both astronomy observations and atomic physics resulted in a revolution in the understanding of the universe:
- Nature of atoms and atomic light spectra
- Spectra of stars and star classification
- Motion of galaxies away from each other (the red shift –the expanding universe)
- Measured constant velocity of light (independent of the motion of the sender or receiver)
- Special and general theory of relativity (required a beginning of the universe)
- Identifying techniques to measure distances to stars and galaxies
- Observing star explosions in galaxies other than the milky way (from the increase in brightness to the decrease in light emission)
- Measurement of the cosmic background radiation which agreed with predictions
Genesis 1:1 says that the universe had a beginning. Data from science clearly shows that the universe had a beginning.
Reaction from the Scientific Community
Many scientists were unhappy because a beginning to the universe means someone or something had to be the cause. Science has no way of studying before the beginning.
There has been a major effort for many years to develop other explanations of the data to avoid the fact that the universe had a beginning and a finite age. Numerous theories have been proposed including the static universe, steady state universe, and the oscillating universe. Scientific data has shown that all these theories are incorrect and they are no longer being pursued.
However, some scientists are still trying to develop new theories that would explain the origin of the universe without the need of a creator.
Reactions from the Christian Community
Many Christians and Christian theologians are very unhappy with the scientific data and general relativity and subsequent refinements of the theory.
The reason for the extreme negative reaction of the Christian community is that the scientific data supporting a beginning of the universe also arrives at an age of the universe much older than the Biblical chronology developed by Archbishop Ussher in the 17th century. He determined the date of creation to be October 3, 4004 B.C. by using the genealogies in Scripture.
There are Christian groups actively looking for evidence to develop alternate theories of astronomical data to prove the universe has a recent origin.
Things in Space
He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. Job 26:7
“Hanging the earth over nothing” is an interesting concept. Many ancient societies had their own ideas of what held up the earth, for example the Iroquois said the earth rode on the back of a turtle1. Today we know there is no object that holds up the earth. Pictures of the earth taken from space show the earth hangs in empty space.
He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness. Job 26:10
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. Isaiah 40:22
The Bible teaches that the earth is round (a circle) as viewed from high above the earth, that it is a sphere and not a flat disk as people believed for millennia. Consider this quote from Christopher Columbus’ diary “It was the Lord who put it into my mind – I could feel his hand upon me – the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies … All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me … There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me with rays of marvelous illumination from the Holy Scriptures… For the execution of the journey to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics, or maps. It is simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied.” It was Isaiah 40:22 that he was referring to. The people ridiculed him because they thought the world was flat and the ship would sail off the edge.2
Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God's dominion over the earth? Job 38:33
Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Job 38:31
The explanation of this verse is found in the ordinances (laws) of the heavens – the law of gravity. The Pleiades is an open group (cluster) of stars that are held together by gravitational forces and they move around the Milky Way galaxy as a unit. Also, the stars that make up the belt of the constellation of Orion are held together as a unit by the law of gravity. Another interesting note is that all other star groups visible to the naked eye are unbounded (not attached to any other star with gravity, with one possible exception of the Hyades). Job is the oldest book of the Bible. Very little was known about the nature of stars and which ones were bound or unbound. Were not all stars fixed?
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Job 38:32
He did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem—those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. 2 Kings 23:5
The Hebrew scholars think the words mazzarôth and mazzalôt are related and most likely refer to the constellations in the zodiac. Today we know that the constellations are seen in their season because the earth revolves around the sun.
The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: "This is what the LORD says: 'If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne. I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.' " Jeremiah 33:19-22
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Psalm 147:4
"To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:25-26
Before the invention of the telescope man tried to number the stars; Ptolemy gave the number as 1,056, Tycho Brahe cataloged 777 and Kepler counted 1,006. Since the invention of the telescope by Galileo in 1608, we now know that the number of stars is innumerable. Today, astronomers estimate that there are about 200 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. They also estimate that there are between 100 billion to 1 trillion galaxies in the Universe.3 So that would be pretty much “countless” if you ask me!
There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. I Corinthians 15:40-41
The belief in the first century was that all the stars were the same. Today we know that light from each star is different. The colors (spectrum) that make up the light from each star is different as well as which color is the most intense. The most intense color allows scientist to determine the temperature of the star.
Other Topics of Interest
What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Job 38:19-20
Until the mid 18th century the nature of light was unknown; light was thought to be either fixed in place or it took no time to go from one place to another. Today we know that light is an electromagnetic wave; light is in motion and in free space its speed is 300,000,000 meters/sec or 186,000 miles/sec.
For He looks to the ends of the earth, And sees under the whole heavens, To establish a weight for the wind, And apportion the waters by measure. When He made a law for the rain, And a path for the thunderbolt, Job 28:24-26 NKJV
The understanding at the time was that the wind and the air was weightless. Now it is known that the air has weight. The barometric pressure at a location on earth is due to the weight of the air column above that location [14.7 lb/in2 or about 30 inches of mercury]. One cubic foot of air weighs 0.076 pounds or 1.21 ounces.
All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. Ecclesiastes 1:7
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, Isaiah 55:10
He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind. Job 36:27-28
These verses describe the water cycle on Earth quite nicely.
The Bible has many verses filled with the fundamentals of science which are up to 3,000 years ahead of their time. In most cases the Bible’s statements contradicted the science or knowledge of that day. As modern science learns more, the accuracy of the Scriptures is substantiated. In fact this is a forceful demonstration that Scripture was divinely inspired.
When you think about all these verses and that scientific data from the last 200 or 300 years show them to be correct, we really have to be careful not to ignore data from science that contradicts a particular interpretation of Scripture. If there is a contradiction between what one thinks scientific data means and a particular interpretation of the Bible, then two things should be done. First the science data and the theory that explains the data have to be reviewed critically to see if it is correct or has errors. For example fossil data does not support the theory of macro-evolution so we do not take this theory seriously. In other situations the science data is correct and reproducible so one has to study the Scripture verses to develop the proper understanding of those verses as described in last post Hermeneutics and Exegesis.Because God is the author of Scripture and the creator of the universe we know that there must be harmony and consistent understanding between God’s two revelations.